We all love to have a good time even in the cold winter months. So you decide to go ice fishing with your friends or go out on a boat when the water temperature is frigid? Although no one can predict a tragedy, you certainly can be prepared for one. Here’s what to know to survive in cold water, and prevent hypothermia.
5 Tips to Survive in Cold Water
1. Don’t Drink Alcohol
You may love that beer, but the alcohol increases your risk of developing hypothermia. Not only does alcohol affect your motor skills, coordination and judgment, but drinking can affect the body’s resistance to cold water and disrupt thermoregulation. It actually can make hypothermia come about faster and progress more quickly.
Leave the alcohol at home, and grab a hot cup of coffee instead.
2. Keep Cotton in the Closet
Cotton makes wonderful shirts…but it’s useless as an insulator when wet. If you happen to fall into cold water, that comfortable cotton shirt is going to become a heavy weight that drains you of warmth.
The pros recommend that if you’re going out in an area near cold water, wear base layers like wool or fleece and an outer layer of something waterproof.
3. Not Close? No Raft? Don’t Swim.
Swimming is going to dramatically increase your heat loss. Because your most critical areas to NOT get cold are your head, your armpits, sides and groin; submerging your head, waving your arms around and exposing your groin are going to drain heat that would preserve you better if you stay still and try to keep as much of your body out of water as possible.
If you do have a flotation device, use the HELP position. This requires that you pull your arms down tightly at your sides and across your chest (protecting the armpits and sides), and put your legs together bending your knees and holding them to your chest (protecting the groin region).
4. Wear that Flotation Device…Now
The law usually requires only that adults “carry” flotation devices (PFDs) on the boats at the amount of one per person…but the facts show us that once you fall into cold water, the chances of you being able to put on a PFD drops dramatically.
Wear that PFD on the boat now, and who cares if you get teased by your friends…you’ll be the one that survives to tell the tale (and you can change the story).
5. Keep your Clothes On
Not only does no one want to see you naked, but having clothes on your body in the water helps to insulate you. Leave them on until you come out of the water and are able to have warm, dry ones ready.