This general information is provided to help you recognize the onset of Hypothermia. It is not intended to replace professional medical attention. Even in Hawaii's ocean waters the threat of Hypothermia exists. Hypothermia is the condition in which the body loses heat faster than it is producing it.
- In the primary stages, the victim may even refuse to acknowledge there is a problem;
- Progression begins with a natural sense of cold accompanied by shivering;
- A feeling of numbness then occurs while shivering increases to where it's soon uncontrollable. Speech is garbled or incoherent, and the thought process slows. Body movements are erratic, and uncovered skin swells and appears blue;
- If the victim or members of his group do not spot the problem soon, unconsciousness will take place, followed by the possibly fatal lowering of the body core temperature.
Here are some simple tips which could help you avoid this condition:
- If possible, re-board your craft, even if it's filled with water or capsized. The more of your body you can get out of the water, the better off you are, since water takes heat from the body many times faster than air at the same temperature.
- Don't take off your clothing unless it's absolutely necessary, since it helps trap body heat like a diver's wet suit.
- Don't move any more than necessary. Swimming, treading water or survival floating uses up valuable energy and increases the heat loss from your body. Movement in the water can cause heat to be lost over 30% faster than if one were to remain motionless.
- Wear a Personal Floatation Device (PFD)! A PFD increases survival time in cold water for two reasons: it decreases the movement necessary to stay afloat and it helps to insulate against heat loss. When the body core temperature drops to about 87 degrees, the average person will lose consciousness. If the victim is not wearing a proper flotation device, drowning is likely.
Basic treatment for Hypothermia requires that the body core temperature be raised to a normal level, aided by outside sources of heat. Some recommended suggestions include:
- stripping the victim, who is then placed into a sleeping bag along with one or two likewise attired companions;
- get dry clothes on the victim then huddle together;
- the use of fire, alone, or with either of the aforementioned techniques;
- administer hot, nonalcoholic drinks;
- the warm breath of rescuers (or steam) can be used via the victim's inhalation.
Once the victim is properly re-warmed, he/she can be moved for treatment by the nearest doctor.