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Hypothermia Warning

Spring is almost here and many anglers and boaters are heading back to the lakes and rivers to finally get out onto the water. Even though the weather is warm, most people forget just how cold the water can be. All it takes is an unexpected wave, the tug of a big fish, or a little clumsiness to send you into the frigid water.

But hypothermia isn't a threat to only fishermen. Many hunters and hikers set out on warm spring days, wearing just jeans and a t-shirt. All this cotton, no back up clothes and unpredictable spring weather is a combination to a hypothermia emergency.

So what is hypothermia?

Hypothermia is a medical event that occurs when a person's body core temperature drops below 95 degrees. This can be caused by exposure to water, wind, very cold air or all of the above. A decrease in critical body heat can result in a loss of dexterity, poor mental state, a loss of consciousness and eventually death. A few minutes in cold water makes it very difficult to swim, or even to stay afloat.  Also, the sudden shock of hitting cold water can cause a reflexive "gasp" allowing water to enter the lungs, so that drowning can be almost immediate. 

Always wear your PFD!

Why is the cold water so bad?  Your body can cool down 25 times faster in cold water than in cold air. Be aware that children, the elderly, the ill and the very slender are at more risk of cooling down and becoming hypothermic than someone who is bigger.


Spot the Symptoms of Hypothermia

There are several signs that you can watch for to catch hypothermia while it is still treatable in the field.

- Mild Hypothermia
 Symptoms: confusion, slurred speech, numbness or tingling in the skin 
Check to see if the person can touch his thumb to his pinky finger of the same hand. The forearm muscles are the first to lock up in mild hypothermia. These sluggish forearm muscles are a good indicator of body warmth, and give you a good clue before shivering begins.

- Moderate Hypothermia
Symptoms: violent shivering, clumsiness, lack of coordination, pale skin, blue-colored extremities.

- Severe Hypothermia
Symptoms: difficulty speaking, trouble walking or moving, amnesia, extreme tiredness, irrational behavior

Treating Hypothermia
Rewarming someone is the main method of treatment, both in the field and in the hospital. 

- Passive external rewarming involves the use of a person's own heat-generating ability. You can get the victim out of wet clothes, and into some properly insulated dry clothing and a warm environment.  Give the victim a little high-calorie food and warm sips of a hot beverage if the hypothermia is mild.

- Active external rewarming involves applying warming devices externally such as a hot water bottle in both armpits. Never use hot baths to treat a hypothermic person, as it can cause a heart attack.

- Active core rewarming should only be administered by a professional because it involves the use of intravenous warmed fluids, irrigation of body cavities with warmed fluids, use of warm humidified inhaled air, or use of extracorporeal rewarming such as a heart lung machine. None of this should be attempted in the field, and be aware that moderate to severe hypothermia victims often go into shock as they rewarm.

Always get yourself or your buddies to the doctor if you even suspect hypothermia. It can shake loose other medical events like a heart attack or stroke. And remember what your mama said: always bring an extra jacket.

Photo: pallavi_damera

Comments (5)

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from joiner 9/24/2013 at 10:09pm

Cold weather is very dangerous. If you are not knowledgable and properly prepped, it will render you helpless in a very short time, perhaps 1 minute if you get wet and the wind is blowing. Especially in the mountains, the temp can drop to 50 F on a warm sunny day. Add wet and windy, and you can be in real trouble very quickly

A frankly, fire by itself is not much help. if you don't get either a reflector for the heat or a couple more fires around you, shelter from precipition and the wind, you will still get messed up, fire notwithstanding. and you have to go get fuel for that fire, perhaps soaking at least your feet and lower legs to do so.

Proper clothing and some sort of wind and rainproof, portable barrie, like an Emergency space blanket, affixed inside of a poncho, are a vital part of your kit. Don't be more than a few hundred yds from shelter, anywhere that it can get cold/wet/windy, or you'e risking your life, over the "burden" of 1 lb of kit. Since almost all of us are lugging around 20-50 lbs of fat, that's silly.

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from djcmed 6/3/2013 at 02:19pm

But its even worse than that in the presence of trauma. Hypothermia comes on quicker, contributes to the lethal triad of death by inhibiting clotting and increasing acidosis. Bottom line = increased bleeding.

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from Addison Walker 1/26/2012 at 02:17am

The coldest that I think I've ever been was when I was taking water samples in subfreezing weather. You can't help but get wet hands handling the sample bottles and having the wind blow just pulls the heat out.
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from albertfrank 9/29/2011 at 09:32am

Being able to recognize the symptoms of hypotermia is extremely important, that's why it sould be mandatory to read articles like this one. Fab from black and white bedding site and bedroom furniture.

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from wgiles 3/28/2011 at 07:31pm

Hypothermia is probably the single most important short term survival issue there is. Getting wet is probably the fastest route to hypothermia. Immersion is bad, but wind chill on a wet body is miserable. The coldest that I think I've ever been was when I was taking water samples in subfreezing weather. You can't help but get wet hands handling the sample bottles and having the wind blow just pulls the heat out. Cold hands are just about as useful as clubs. As quickly as could, I got back to the truck and put my hands in my arm pits, under my coat, but it seemed forever before they warmed up.

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Write a Comment Your comment (200 characters or less):

from wgiles 3/28/2011 at 07:31pm

Hypothermia is probably the single most important short term survival issue there is. Getting wet is probably the fastest route to hypothermia. Immersion is bad, but wind chill on a wet body is miserable. The coldest that I think I've ever been was when I was taking water samples in subfreezing weather. You can't help but get wet hands handling the sample bottles and having the wind blow just pulls the heat out. Cold hands are just about as useful as clubs. As quickly as could, I got back to the truck and put my hands in my arm pits, under my coat, but it seemed forever before they warmed up.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from albertfrank 9/29/2011 at 09:32am

Being able to recognize the symptoms of hypotermia is extremely important, that's why it sould be mandatory to read articles like this one. Fab from black and white bedding site and bedroom furniture.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Addison Walker 1/26/2012 at 02:17am

The coldest that I think I've ever been was when I was taking water samples in subfreezing weather. You can't help but get wet hands handling the sample bottles and having the wind blow just pulls the heat out.
Movie Ranking

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from djcmed 6/3/2013 at 02:19pm

But its even worse than that in the presence of trauma. Hypothermia comes on quicker, contributes to the lethal triad of death by inhibiting clotting and increasing acidosis. Bottom line = increased bleeding.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from joiner 9/24/2013 at 10:09pm

Cold weather is very dangerous. If you are not knowledgable and properly prepped, it will render you helpless in a very short time, perhaps 1 minute if you get wet and the wind is blowing. Especially in the mountains, the temp can drop to 50 F on a warm sunny day. Add wet and windy, and you can be in real trouble very quickly

A frankly, fire by itself is not much help. if you don't get either a reflector for the heat or a couple more fires around you, shelter from precipition and the wind, you will still get messed up, fire notwithstanding. and you have to go get fuel for that fire, perhaps soaking at least your feet and lower legs to do so.

Proper clothing and some sort of wind and rainproof, portable barrie, like an Emergency space blanket, affixed inside of a poncho, are a vital part of your kit. Don't be more than a few hundred yds from shelter, anywhere that it can get cold/wet/windy, or you'e risking your life, over the "burden" of 1 lb of kit. Since almost all of us are lugging around 20-50 lbs of fat, that's silly.

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Write a Comment Your comment (200 characters or less):