Hypothermia is caused by prolonged exposure to abnormally low temperatures or to dampness. It sets in when the internal body temperature drops to 95° (F) or lower.
Paddlers can become hypothermic through:
- Cold water immersion.
- Prolonged exposure to cold air and wind while wearing wet clothing.
- Prolonged exposure to low temperatures.
Hypothermia victims will experience the following three stages:
- The Early Stage: During this stage the victim will still be conscious but their speech will be slurry and they will be shivering aggressively.
- The Intermediate Stage: During this stage the victim will still be conscious, but will be irrational, confused and sleepy. They will also have a slow, weak pulse, slow breathing, reduced muscle functions and a lack of coordination.
- The Final Stage: During this phase, the victim will collapse and lose consciousness. Their breathing and pulse will also be weak and irregular.
Hypothermia Prevention Tips:
- Wear a life jacket to stay afloat and to keep your head above the water—50% of body heat loss occurs through the head.
- Pack protective rain gear in case a storm rolls in.
- If you’re hunting or fishing from a paddle craft you should always wear cold water/weather survival gear.