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Ice and Cold Water Safety
Each winter, people are injured from exposure in cold water incidents. Cold water is defined as any water that is cooler than normal body temperature (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Cold water drains away body heat 25 to 30 times faster than air! Cold water just has to be colder than you are to cause hypothermia. The lower the temperature of the water, the faster the onset of hypothermia can be.
What is hypothermia?
Hypothermia is the excessive lowering of body temperature. A drop in core body temperature below 95 degrees F. causes shivering, confusion, loss of muscle strength, and if not treated and reversed, hypothermia leads to unconsciousness and death.
How Can I Prevent Hypothermia?
To prevent hypothermia, wear layers of warm clothing, protect your head and hands from the elements by wearing winter hats and gloves/mittens, keep as dry as possible, always wear a personal floatation device when around cold water, and carry matches in a waterproof container.
Helping Someone with Hypothermia
Ice on moving water in rivers, streams, and brooks is never safe. The thickness of ice on ponds and lakes depends upon water currents or springs, depth, and natural objects such as tree stumps or rocks. Daily changes in temperature cause the ice to expand and contract, which affects its strength. Because of these factors, no one can declare the ice to be absolutely “safe”.
What if Someone Falls Through the Ice?
If you fall into cold water, bring your knees to your chest, hold your arms to your sides and clasp your hands, and cover your head if possible to protect your body from heat loss. DO NOT try to swim unless a boat, floating object, or the shore is close by. Swimming causes “warm” blood to circulate to your arms and legs, where it cools off quickly and reduces survival time by as much as 35-50%!
It’s not about saving lives; it’s about saving your life.
December 28, 2009