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Freezing to Death in the Water

May 23, 2012
Colson Hicks Eidson

If you thought that hypothermia was only a danger in cold water, you thought wrong. Hypothermia is a common boating injury, and it can occur in waters as warm as 80 degrees. Hypothermia sets in when the body’s core internal temperature drops below the point where normal body functions occur. Whether you are on a boat, personal watercraft or swimming, you should know the warnings signs of hypothermia.

The first signs that your body is losing heat are involuntary shivering and goose bumps erupting on your skin. It is your body telling you to seek warmth. If you do not warm your body, the shivering stops and your body begins the shutting down process. The blood flow to your arms and legs slows down and your speech begins to slur. Your muscles will then lose coordination and your breathing becomes slow and erratic. The next step is loss of consciousness and then death.

If you fall in the water, here is what you should do:

  • Get out of the water as soon as possible – if you cannot get back on the boat or vessel, do not swim.
  • You lose more body heat by swimming – it is safer to tread water.
  • If you are wearing a life jacket, lift your knees to make your body compact – it is the symbol for help.
  • If in a group, huddle together for warmth.
  • Keep your head out of the water – the majority of body heat goes out through the head.

Have you suffered a serious injury in a boating accident?