Technical Rescue

IMMERSION HYPOTHERMIA AND WINTER WATER OPERATIONS

Issue 12 and Volume 154.

Cold water can quickly wear down even highly fit individuals. BY ANDREA ZAFERES AND WALT “BUTCH” HENDRICK What is cold? We lose body heat in 80°F water at the same rate as in 42°F air!1 If you don’t picture yourself comfortable working outdoors in your underwear in 42°F air, then you should not consider working in 80°F water without proper personal protective equipment (PPE). In addition to taking care of themselves, rescuers at winter water operations should provide optimal care to immersion hypothermia patients, especially after removing them from the water. Such patients face additional challenges from the effects of cold during the preparation and transport phases. Most people define hypothermia as “the body’s inability to maintain normal core temperature,” whereas the medical definition of hypothermia is a body core temperature of less than 95°F. A person using the medical definition might infer that a decrease in body core temperature…

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