With the passing of cold fronts the gulf temperatures continue to drop and it is important that every boater understand the dangers as well as how to treat hypothermia. Hypothermia in its simplest terms is a lowering of the body core temperature. It is usually brought on by a combination of cold, wet and windy conditions. With a normal body temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, our core body temperature needs only to drop to 95 degrees to bring on the onset of hypothermia. One does not need to be submersed in ice water to experience hypothermia. A combination of damp clothes and wind can drop body temperatures quickly, even in our tropical climate. In fact statistics show that there are more hypothermia related deaths in the summer months than in winter. The effects of hypothermia can be subtle and creep up on you. Further, the initial effects are a slowed thinking process and a careless attitude, which makes you a danger to yourself and those around you. This can result in causing accidents as well as allowing the hypothermia to progress.
The initial symptoms of hypothermia are shivering along with a tingling or numbness in the extremities followed by a blue or blotchy skin discoloration. The cooling body causes cells to cease to function properly and the brain and nervous system work more slowly. Thus early symptoms may include a careless or indifferent attitude. Muscles begin to contract more slowly and cramps may occur. As the body temperature continues to drop the heart beat becomes irregular at about 90 degrees. When the body reaches 82 degrees the heart has lost 50 % of its rate and below a core temperature of 75 to 80, cardiac arrest occurs. While this article provides basic information on how to recognize and treat hypothermia, remember that hypothermia is a life threatening condition. Therefore you should call for professional help immediately and not depend on your own application of first aid.
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