Hypothermia is Avoidable with Care and Attention,Why do we mention this?
Because hypothermia can creep up on people through exposure to the elements and at sea level, including inland lakes and other sailing waters, making it important to spot and essential that skippers and crew members recognize it and know how to deal with it.
So: What is hypothermia? It is a medical emergency that happens when a person’s body loses core temperature faster than it can replace it. Normal body temperature is c 98.6 F or 37C, if body temperature falls below 95 F or 35C hypothermia occurs.
What should we know so that we can spot the onset of hypothermia?
Stage 1 Shivering, teeth chattering, lowered blood circulation (i.e. pale face and lips)
Stage 2 The person slows down noticeably, has a weak pulse, loses co-ordination, becomes irritable and argumentative and confused, becomes sleepy and lethargic.
Stage 3 Slows down substantially, becomes very weak and barely breathing and their pulse rate drops. He or she may become unconscious. Boaters who end up in the water and those who sail with them should be aware of the significance of exposure and immersion so that they will know how to spot the onset of hypothermia and what action they should take.
It is essential to conserve energy and body heat and to improve survival time weare recommended to: Make sure every crew member (especially children) wears a Personal Flotation Device, a life jacket/preserver, it will help keep your head above water and provide some heat retention.
Stay calm as much as is possible, panic and thrashing about will burn energy. Boaters should ensure that all onboard are wearing clothing that is designed to retain body heat, water proof garments, body suits, warm jackets and hats.
In the water, Swim to rescuers or to take shelter only, swimming burns energy and body heat. If you can get out of the water by climbing into a boat or on the upturned hull do so, try and get as much of your body out of the water as possible.
Very cold water will reduce body temperature to fall around 25 times quicker than air temperature! If you can’t get out of the water curl up into the fetal position or if there are several of you cuddle up close to gain mutual benefit and keep warm.
Do not give alcohol to a hypothermia victim. What can you do to help?Where possible get them into shelter, in a cabin or anywhere that is out of the wind.
Once recovered onboard, remove all wet clothing, dry them with a towel and dress them in warm dry clothes, wrap with blankets or use a space blanket to assist the body to restore core temperature.
Give them warm non- alcoholic drinks providing they are able to swallow them.
Give them high energy food containing sugar including chocolate so long as they are able to cope with eating them.
Do not,Put the person into a hot bath, Massage their limbs,Use heating devices, Allow them alcohol Each of these could cause cardiac arrest.
In any case it is wise to head to a home port and get the hypothermia casualty into medical care where they will be stabilised and treated for any unknown or unseen complications or conditions whose affect may be complicated by the circumstances.
Be prepared. Take the precaution of going onto the water adequately prepared, sail training schools will advise about local conditions and some will give advice on hypothermia. However, we recommend for everyone that they take First Aid lessons with a specific emphasis on hypothermia.
NB. Babies and children do lose body heat quicker than adults.Finally and to emphasise the importance of hypothermia, please note:
In cold waters (c .3 degrees) it can take as little as 15 minutes for a person to die from hypothermia!
Photo for Hypothermia from Aceboater.com