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Hypothermia In The Gulf Of Mexico
Because the Gulf of Mexico is considered by most to be warm water, this ideology makes it dangerous. Yes, the water is much warmer than northern water, but the human body reacts to 58-60 degree water the same as 45 degree water. You’ll first experience cold water shock, which will cause you to gasp in between while screaming incoherently, you’ll curl up into a ball in an attempt to stay warm, you’ll shiver uncontrollably, lose movement in your fingers and toes, and without flotation, you’ll lose your head. Cannot be placed above the waterline.
Immersion in cold water can last if you take the right steps. If my article was “The-Seven-Steps-To-Survival” you would know that recognition is the first step. If you fail to recognize that a ditch is possible, as some do, and fail to have flotation (life-vests and life-rafts) in your aircraft, you will be one of the many sad statistics that say, “There was no occupant flotation device”.
While in the US Coast Guard stationed in Kodiak Alaska, I met Dr. Had the privilege of serving with Martin Nemeroff (Capt.). Dr. Nimeroff was the Coast Guard’s leading expert on cold water immersion. Through his teachings, I learned that hypothermia (decrease in core body temperature) adversely affects the human body even in small degrees. This human machine was designed to operate at a constant 98.6 degrees, and any variation above or below would result in adverse effects (hyperthermia/hypothermia).
The human body produces a small amount of heat by shivering (stage one hypothermia 98.6 F to 95.0 degrees). Chills, shivering, drowsiness, slurred speech and disorientation are all symptoms of the first stage (mild hypothermia). Note: A person with “Stage One” hypothermia will appear intoxicated.
As you can see, just 3.6 degrees difference from your normal body temperature can have adverse effects that can seriously affect your ability to do the things you need to survive.
Now let’s go a step further. Suppose your body temperature drops below 95 degrees. You are now entering stage two hypothermia (95-91 degrees). These symptoms include tremors, decreased level of consciousness, and decreased respiratory rate. Without flotation for a person in the water (PIW), this is where you run into serious trouble. The shivering you experience during the first stage of hypothermia has used up a lot of energy. Once the shivering stops, your body no longer has the ability to rewarm itself. You will be very tired and unable to maneuver through incoming waves and swells. You will begin breathing in the mouth of the water and will not be able to stay above the surface, so drowning will occur eventually.
Now go to the next level. Third stage (severe hypothermia) 91-86 degrees. Symptoms include muscle stiffness and loss of consciousness. I hope I don’t have to explain what happens to PIW when he loses consciousness other than flotation.
The stages of hypothermia depend on the time in the water. This varies from person to person and has a lot to do with body mass. For example, a child succumbs sooner than a man. The thicker the body mass, the longer the survival time.
Mortality from hypothermia is less likely for PIW without flotation. The cause of his death is probably spared; Unable to keep his head out of the water, he drowned. He drowned, but he probably drowned either by losing control of his limbs or by being unconscious from being submerged in cold water.
Although the expected survival time for a person in 75 degree water ranges from 3 hours indefinitely, the term “indefinite” is based on the condition that you are wearing a life vest and able to keep your head out of the water. In case of unconsciousness (as all CG approved lifevests are designed to do).
Water temperatures in the eastern Gulf of Mexico today (April) average around 75 degrees. Depending on the time in the water and what you have on, you can pass out within three hours! Colder water temperatures between November and March give you even less time to survive. That’s why it’s so important that you get out of that “heat robbing” water.
The head, neck, underarms, sides of the chest and groin are the main areas of heat loss. When you submerge your body in water, you immediately begin to lose heat in these areas: convection (the movement of water that’s “cooler than you”), and conduction (touching any skin that’s cooler than body temperature).
The human body’s response is to protect the core of the chest and heart. Blood is cooling very rapidly (x25 in water), so the human body’s reaction is to cut off blood flow to your external organs, for example; Your fingers and toes. Soon, blood will continue to drain from the arms and legs and pool in the main body. Also, blood flow to the brain will be restricted, so abnormal behaviors such as disorienting, swimming and descending, (removing clothing and floating) are seen in many wet hypothermia victims.
Since blood now pools in the core of the body, lifting a survivor upright, jumping out of a helicopter after a rescue, or any sudden jolts even while walking can cause blood to pool suddenly in your body. Legs This will cause your heart to beat harder to get back the blood “now pooling in your legs”. Lack of blood and oxygen to the heart and brain = cardiac arrest. Patients with hypothermia will claim that they are fine to walk, but they should always be transferred to a horizontal position and kept that way until medical attention can be obtained. Blood pooled in the core eventually has to return to the legs and arms. Ideally you want this recovery to be gradual and under the supervision of a medical facility.
Conduction in submerged water is twenty-five times faster than in air!
By assuming a heat loss reducing position (support), you can protect the vulnerable heat loss areas of your body (head, neck, underarms, sides, and groin).
Please note that this position can only be maintained with the aid of a flotation device (US Coast Guard approved life vest). Without flotation, you have to straighten and kick your legs, expose your thighs, and swing your arms outwards, exposing your neck, underarms, and sides. By maintaining HELP status you can increase your survival time by hours.
Liferafts, are they necessary in Caribbean waters? I say so!
In real life waves will knock you all over the place. You might be excited to see the rain clouds coming your way but you might be surprised to see that these rain clouds are actually pretty cool. Granted, a liferaft ride through a squall can be exciting too, but at least you won’t be swallowing seawater during your ride.
By removing your body from the water, you increase your chances of survival by over 70 percent! By entering a canopied liferaft, not only can you get out of that heat-robbing water, but now you can protect yourself from the sun, wind and rain, and you can be sure that all of your crew members are together.
If your dig is late in the day, there’s a good chance you’ll stay overnight. That eight to ten hours! In these situations a life-raft can be your best friend, your life saver. By boarding a lifecraft, you’ve increased your survival time out of the water, you’ve increased your target size, and you should now have more signaling equipment that can help locate you.
Even on land, the lifecraft acting as a tent would provide the same protective and signaling features. Why don’t you take a lifecraft?
Huddle position (can only be accomplished with flotation). Place the injured person or children in the middle. The idea is to “lock in” the water in the center of the huddle. This “locked in” water will be heated by the combined body heat of each survivor. No, it won’t reach 98.6 degrees, but it will be a lot warmer than the water on your backside. Note the five major areas of body heat loss. You still need to move those legs, arms to the side, use your inflated vest bladder to block and insulate the water from your neck area, and if you’re lucky enough to be wearing a hat at this point, pull it down a bit. tight
The HUDDLE position not only provides shared warmth, but it also helps overcome barriers to survival as a team while significantly increasing your target size for searchers. Use the seven steps of a survival plan.
Searchers in your area? Turn around and hold yourself back while locking arms. Now go away! This circular splash can be seen up to two miles away by aerial searchers and about half a mile to a mile away by maritime assets.
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