Deadly Conditions That Can Arise at Sea and How to Treat Them: Hypothermia

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

hypothermia, hypothermia treatment, boating accident lawyersIn our last blog, our boating accident lawyers discussed one of the most common, yet treatable conditions that can arise at sea and pose a deadly situation for boaters – heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion results when an individual becomes dehydrated while experiencing hot temperatures. But while it can be fatal if left untreated, recognizing the signs of heat exhaustion and understanding the steps that can be taken to both treat and prevent this condition can lead to a successful recovery. The same applies to other common conditions that boaters may face while out in open waters.

On the other end of the spectrum from heat exhaustion is another condition that can threaten the lives of boaters – hypothermia. Hypothermia results when the body’s temperatures cool down to dangerous levels. This can happen, for example, if a boater falls into cold water.

So, what are the signs that someone is experiencing hypothermia? Common symptoms include the following:

  • Confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Slurred speech
  • Uncontrollable shivering
  • Shallow breathing
  • Loss of consciousness (In extreme cases)

Now that you know what to look for, it’s important you understand what to do when someone displays symptoms of hypothermia. The boating accident lawyers at our firm have a few tips.

First, every boater should note that immediate treatment of hypothermia is critical to the victim’s survival. If a person is wet, efforts should be made to dry them off. Then, efforts should be made to warm the person’s core, or their trunk. However, this should be done in a gentle and gradual way, as warming extremities too quickly or vigorously can lead to shock. The best thing to do is wrap the victim in layers of clothing and blankets, and provide them with something warm to drink. It is also important to keep the person dry during this process. Dipping someone in a hot bath is not recommended because this kind of rapid warming can lead to heart irregularities.

Fortunately, if caught early, both hypothermia and heat exhaustion are medical conditions that can be managed without the need of medical professionals. However, if a person doesn’t receive treatment or doesn’t respond to treatment, these conditions can quickly evolve into deadly situations.

Additionally, it’s important for boaters to understand that both the symptoms of hypothermia and heat exhaustion can mimic those of excessive alcohol consumption. Drinking to excess can also make these conditions worse, as well—yet another reason to avoid boating and drinking.

Although these are good tips to help avoid a potentially life-threatening situation in open waters, it’s important that boaters understand that these techniques are in no way a replacement for taking a CPR and first aid courses. For those who spend long periods of time on a vessel or who venture into larger and deeper bodies of water, a wilderness first aid course should also be considered.