As we begin to plan more and more activities it can be easy to forget that even as the weather warms up that the temperature of large bodies of water don’t warm at the same rate as the weather. Hypothermia is a very real possibility even on a warm spring day.
Hypothermia is a condition that exists when the body’s temperature drops below ninety-five degrees. This can be caused by exposure to air or water. Loss of body heat results in loss of dexterity, loss of consciousness, and eventually loss of life. A few minutes in cold water makes it very difficult to swim or even keep afloat. Plus, a sudden, unexpected plunge into cold water may cause a reflexive gasp allowing water to enter the lungs.
Your body can cool down 25 times faster in cold water than in cold air. Survival time can be as short as 15 minutes. Water temperature, body size, amount of body fat, and movement in the water all play a part in cold water survival. Small people cool faster than large people and children cool faster than adults.
Uncontrollable shivering is one of the first signs of hypothermia.
Treatment of hypothermia can be accomplished by gradually raising the body temperature back to normal. It can be as simple as sharing a sleeping bag or blanket with another person or applying warm moist towels to the individual’s neck, sides of chest and groin. Remove wet clothing as they inhibit heat retention. A warm bath can be used for mild to medium hypothermia. Gradually increase the water temperature. Keep arms and legs out of the water and do not attempt to raise the body temperature too quickly.
Of course contacting medical professionals immediately is another important step in helping someone with hypothermia.