The Silent Killer

The Silent Killer The Silent Killer Be Careful

There is a silent killer stalking the state each year. Victims number into the thousands, yet most were unaware of its presence…. until it was too late. The killers name is Hypothermia. Every year a large numbers of deaths occur, especially in boating accidents, with the cause listed most often as drowning. There is strong evidence that hypothermia was a major factor in many of these deaths.

The term “hypothermia” is descriptive of a physical condition .. “hypo” meaning lowering or lessening and “thermia” pertaining to temperature (in particular inner body temperature). Normal inner body temperature is 98.6 degrees (F). A small drop in the inner temperature can cause the body to have uncontrollable shivering, along with the inability to perform even the simplest of tasks.

As this inner temperature drops even lower, shivering is replaced by uncontrollable shaking, unconsciousness, and then death. Since hypothermia is caused by the body losing heat faster than it can be produced, the remedy is to stop this excess loss of body heat as much as possible. This can be done by putting on more clothing, wrapping in a blanket, or perhaps something as simple as just wearing a hat and a pair of gloves. Studies have proven that the most effective way of combating cold weather is to dress in layers.

Many of you Toledo Bend anglers probably think there is no possible way that you could ever become a victim of hypothermia. Your convinced that you could react quickly to any of the symptoms such as shivering, loss of hand dexterity or slurring of words. You could be wrong .. Dead Wrong! It goes without saying that when you are on the water, especially during the colder months, you should be wearing your life jacket. But what would you do if you found yourself suddenly dumped into the cold and frigid water? A hypothermia victim may lose consciousness in less than an hour in 40 to 50-degree water. Expected survival time decreases as the water temperature goes down. The shock of hitting that icy water will often cause rapid breathing, disorientation, and dizziness. A combination of these factors may even cause the heart to stop beating.

The first decision you will face if entering the frigid water will be whether or not to swim to shore. Unless the shore is Very close you are in most cases better off to remain where you are, conserve your energy, and if possible get back into or on your boat. Swimming leads to faster heat loss (increase by 35-50%) and exhaustion. Even a strong swimmer would not be able to swim far in calm water. Cramp and hypothermia develop more quickly and the victim becomes semiconscious and is likely to drown. A better solution is to adopt a heat conserving strategy (help or huddle) instead.

The positions HELP and HUDDLE are designed to reduce body heat loss in water. HELP HUDDLE Consider your circumstances carefully before deciding to swim, is there a favorable current to assist you etc. Treading water also lead to rapid heat loss so avoid if possible. Do not remove clothing or shoes because they provide insulation (a jacket can trap air and assists floating). 

HypothermiaIf you happen on a hypothermia victim it is essential to bring their body temperature back to normal as quickly as possible. Get the victim out of the weather and into dry clothing or wrap them in a blanket (better yet a sleeping bag).

The proper treatment is to rewarm the trunk of the body – not the extremities. Don’t rub the arms or legs because this will force cold blood back into the already chilled core of the body. Don’t give the victim alcohol! Alcohol will drive blood to the surface of the body where it will be further exposed to cooling. Severe hypothermia is a very serious condition and if at all possible rewarming should be done at a hospital.

Obviously the best way to avoid hypothermia is to throw another log on the fire and snuggle up with a good book. However, when the fish are biting you know that is not going to happen. The alternative is to dress right, be careful and use good common sense. Be sure you take the necessary steps so that you won’t become another victim of the “silent killer”.   JB

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