Guide: Cold water safety awareness

Any water colder than 70 degrees should be considered dangerous.

Sandrina Rodrigues

May 26, 2023, 8:30 AM

Updated 424 days ago

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Guide: Cold water safety awareness
The warming weather over the next couple of months will increase the number of people heading onto the water looking for outdoor activities. Although average high temperatures are rising through the 60s in April and into the low- to mid-70s in May, water temperatures will still be cold. That brings the risk of cold water drowning.
Any water colder than 70 degrees should be considered dangerous. Body heat can be lost four times faster in cold water than in cold air. Immersion runs the risk of cold water shock. 
Water temperatures typically don't rise above 50 degrees until early May, above 60 degrees until late May to early June, and above 70 degrees until July.
From 2010 to 2020, there were 219 recreational boating deaths in the tri-state waters, many of which were presumed from cold water drowning, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
The information below will increase your chance for survival if you fall in the water:
Stay calm.
Minimize time in the water. Get out as soon as possible safely.
If possible, utilize any floating objects to get out of the water.
Keep as much of your body out of the water as possible.
Evaluate your options.
If you can swim to safety, stay calm and do so.
If you cannot swim to safety, conserve energy and heat and await rescue.
If you cannot get to safety, assume the Heat Escape Lessening Position (HELP) position. This protects the critical body areas and slows down the loss of heat. HELP position means:
Draw your knees to your chin and keep your legs together.
Press both arms against your side and keep your head out of the water.
If possible, form a huddle in the water with others to conserve body heat.
If you need to treat yourself or someone else that has been submerged in cold water, follow the steps below (developed by the Red Cross):
CALL 911 or the local emergency number.
Gently move the person to a warm place.
Monitor breathing and circulation. Give rescue breathing and CPR, if needed.
Remove any wet clothing and dry the person.
Warm the person slowly by wrapping in blankets or by putting on dry clothing.
Hot water bottles and chemical hot packs may be used. Wrap the person in a towel or blanket before applying.
Do not warm the person too quickly. Do not immerse the person in warm water. Rapid warming may cause dangerous heart arrhythmias.
Warm the core first (trunk and abdomen), not the extremities (hands, feet). Warming hands and feet first can cause shock.


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