Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Cold Water

The waters around here are still cold.

Sady, another drowning victim was recovered in this area. The news report never mentioned much about safety other than the fact that the victim's life jacket was still laying in the boat.

Most victims of cold water immersion actually die of drowning, not hypothermia, and many drowning victims are very close to safety when they die.

The Canadian Safe Boating Council / SmartRisk Study showed that between 1991 and 2000, 41% of those who drowned while boating were within 33 feet of shore at the time. An additional 22% were within 33 feet to 50 feet of shore. A British study from 1977 showed that 55% of open water drownings occurred within 10 feet of safety!!! And two thirds of drowning victims were strong swimmers. How can this be?

Many of the drowning victims die within the first minute of their immersion. Next time you are outdoors, pace off 40 feet. Can you imagine being 40 feet from shore and unable to swim to it to save your life??

Cold Shock
On falling into cold water, cold receptors in the skin cause immediate physiological responses, the first of which is a gasp reflex. If this happens when your head is under water, you are in deep trouble. (When you tip over in a kayak and are upside down, where is your head?)

Next, you begin to hyperventilate, within seconds, your heart begins to race, and your blood pressure spikes. Hyperventilation may make it difficult to get air into your lungs, leading to panic and further hyperventilation.

These symptoms can trigger cardiac arrest in susceptible individuals. Even healthy individuals will have difficulty keeping their airways above water without a flotation aid while undergoing these major physiological stresses.

The effects of cold shock normally peak within the first minute and stabilize very soon thereafter.

Wearing a life jacket can ease the cold water shock. Statistics show that nearly 90 per cent of those who die won’t be wearing a life-jacket - the most common risk factor for recreational boating drownings. Only 11% of drowning victims were wearing personal flotatation devices (PFDs).

Wearing a life jacket during a capsize in cold water could save your life.

Trying to put on a PFD after turning over in a kayak is like trying to put on a seatbelt while an auto accident is happening.

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