Immersion suits will delay the effects of
hypothermia in cold water.
Immersion in water speeds the loss of body heat and can lead to
hypothermia. Hypothermia is the abnormal lowering of internal body
temperature. If your boat capsizes it will likely float on or just below
the surface. Outboard powered vessels built after 1978 are designed to
support you even if full of water or capsized. To reduce the effects of
hypothermia get in or on the boat. Try to get as much of your body out of
the water as possible. If you can't get in the boat a PFD will enable you
to keep your head out of the water. This is very important because about
50% of body heat loss is from the head.
It may be possible to revive a drowning victim who has been under water for
considerable time and shows no signs of life. Numerous documented cases
exist where victims have been resuscitated with no apparent harmful effects
after long immersions. Start CPR immediately and get the victim to a
hospital as quickly as possible.
The Danger Zone indicates where safety
precautions and appropriate behavior can increase your
chances of survival when immersed in cold water.
Many people think hypothermia occurs only in an extreme arctic environment.
This is a false idea and has lead to the death of many. With a combination of
wet clothing and a breeze people are prime targets for hypothermia. Many deaths
happen at temperatures of 40° or 50° F.
The following highlights symptoms for both mild and severe hypothermia,
treatment and prevention.
Mild hypothermia (core temperature above 90°)
(core temperature below 90°)
Decreased shivering, victim feels warmer
Pale or blue skin
Weak, slow and irregular pulse
Confusion, memory loss
The key to successful treatment of hypothermia is
early detection. If you're in a group, watch each other for the symptoms of
hypothermia. Remember, it only takes minutes to slip into hypothermia, and less
than two hours to die from it. There are several steps to follow when treating a
(core temperature above 90°)
Shelter from wind and cold
Build a fire or produce heat (use candles or other
chemical heat source, or huddle together with other warm bodies.)
Remove wet clothing
Drink warm fluids
Eat food - Start with simple carbohydrates such as
candy and work up to more complex foods.
(core temperature below 90°)
Core temperatures below 90° produce cardiac
irritability. Under these conditions any sudden movement can cause a lethal
heart rhythm. Great care must be taken to be gentle with these victims. It is
important to understand that when the core temperature drops below 90°, the body
can no longer warm itself. Applied heat is the only way to re-warm. Skin to skin
contact is the best for successful heat transfer. If the victim is conscious,
warm liquids are in order.
The Unconscious Victim - special care must be taken
when treating the unconscious victim. At this point the cardiac and respiratory
systems are very delicate. Any sudden movement may cause ventricular
fibrillation of the heart, which quickly leads to death. The victim must be
warmed slowly and at a controlled rate. The introduction of too much heat may
cause serious danger. Never give food or drink to an unconscious person. The
best immediate treatment is to prevent additional heat loss, keep the airway
open, and arrange for immediate transportation to a medical facility.
Best method of prevention is to be prepared for the worst
conditions. Anticipate every problem which may arise and be prepared for it. The
best defense against hypothermia is to understand it. The next best defense is
to use a layering system.