occurs when a person loses more heat than his/her body can
generate. Louisiana’s outdoorsmen should be aware
of this threat, since many outdoor activities take place
throughout the winter months and many take place on the
water. Hypothermia occurs when a person has been in cold
water or cold air long enough for body temperatures to be
dangerously lowered. The real threat arises when the onset
of hypothermia is not recognized.
Hypothermia can begin in wet conditions such as cool drizzling
rain. It can be caused by overexertion that brings on sweating.
Even high humidity in the air can chill you. Falling in
the water and getting soaked will make the onset of hypothermia
more likely. An accident that leaves you in the water can
take your life in less than an hour even though you do not
drown. Wind can cool down your body. A long cold boat ride
may cause hypothermia. You can lose body heat and be in
danger of hypothermia even when the temperature is 40 to
60 degrees Fahrenheit. Common symptoms include: uncontrollable
shivering, vague, slow, slurred speech, memory lapses, incoherence
and immobile fumbling hands.
The best way to avoid hypothermia is to stay dry. Always
carry an extra set of clothes and raingear, since even a
light rain, mist or fog could initiate the onset of hypothermia.
If you do have an accident and end up in the water; get
out of the wet clothes and out of the wind as quickly as
a person develops hypothermia symptoms, immediate action
must be taken to stop heat loss and regain body heat before
more serious problems develop. A wet or chilled individual
must seek shelter to warm up and dry wet clothing. At a
minimum, excess moisture should be wrung from clothing.
If possible, a fire should be built.
hypothermia is dangerous. Treatment for these stages should
be administered by health professionals. If you discover
a person with severe hypothermia, administer the following
first-aid while waiting for help. Apply CPR if necessary.
If the victim is breathing, and you can feel a pulse, gently
transfer him to a warm place. Treat him gently; do not massage
or manipulate extremities. Remove or cut away wet clothes.
Place an unconscious or semi-conscious victim in a level,
face-up position. Further heat loss must be stopped. For
example, put victim in a plastic garbage bag with a hole
cut for the head. Find a heat source or heat donor. Placing
the victim nude in a sleeping bag with another person is
a technique that warms the victim gradually. Gently and
gradually apply warmed objects wrapped in towels to the
groin, chest, neck and head. Rewarming must be slow to avoid
a shock to his/her system that could cause the victim’s
heart to stop. Never give coffee or alcohol. The unconscious
or semi-conscious should be given nothing to eat or drink.
Keep his/her temperature even during transport. Do not leave
the victim alone in case delayed reactions occur.