Skipper’s Quick Guide to Hypothermia

With so many cruisers crossing cold waters this time of year, there’s no better time to brush up on how to recognize and what to do in cases of hypothermia. Captain John of www.skippertips.com gives us the express guide to handling hypothermia.

Are you able to recognize the signs of hypothermia in your crew? Anyone can become hypothermic, and without care, this could lead to severe health problems or injury.

But before you can treat a person for hypothermia, you will need to link the visual signs to a severity stage. Follow these three steps:

1. Look under the third column. Find the visual signs that most closely match those displayed by your crew member.

2. Note the severity stage located along the same line.

3. Enter the descriptions below the table with the severity stage. Decide on the best steps to assist your crew member in recovering.

Hypothermic Severity Stages
Stage Body Temp Visual Signs
Mild 95ºF(35ºC)-91ºF(33ºC) Shivering, difficulty moving or completing tasks. Near the lower limit, uncontrolled severe shivering, slurred speech.
Medium 90ºF(32ºC)-81ºF(27ºC) Shivering ceases, unable to move. Near the lower limit, irrational behavior, respiratory system slows.
Severe 80ºF(27ºC)-78ºF(26ºC) No reflexes, unable to communicate, heart arrhythmia. Near the lower limit, death.

“Mild Stage” Recovery Steps:

1. Remove wet clothing. If clothing is tight, don’t peel it(this could send cold surface blood back to the body core). Use a knife or razor to cut the clothing away.

2. Wrap the person in a blanket or sleeping bag.

3. Give a lukewarm drink of water or juice (non caffeinated, non alcoholic).

4. After recovery, have the person wear a close fitting hat(wool or microfiber) and layered clothing before exposing to the elements.

“Medium Stage” Recovery Steps:

1. Remove wet clothing(see above).

2. Crawl into a sleeping bag with the person. Hug them from behind

3. Treat for shock. Elevate the legs several inches above the head

4. Take care not to overheat the person. Let their body do most of the recovery. Do not use hot water bottles or artificial heating methods(could cause 2nd or 3rd degree burns).

“Severe Stage” Recovery Steps:

1. Remove wet clothing(see above) if time permits. If not, leave on(still provides some insulation).

2. Treat for shock. Elevate the legs several inches above the head

3. If the person is breathing on their own, exhale gently down their throat as they inhale. Monitor pulse and respiration.

4. If the person is not breathing, begin CPR right away.

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