As air temperatures around the region get warmer and more recreational boaters take to the water, the Coast Guard is cautioning boaters that the water is still very cold. Every year the Coast Guard responds to cold-water accidents resulting in death by hypothermia and drowning.
Hypothermia is dangerous because it affects the body’s core—the brain, heart, lungs, and other vital organs. Even a mild case of hypothermia affects your physical and mental abilities, and increases the risk of accidents. Severe hypothermia causes loss of consciousness and may result in death. Cold water is especially dangerous because loss of body heat occurs 25 times faster in cold water than in cold air. Hypothermia occurs when the body’s core temperature falls below its normal level of 98.6°F to 95°F or cooler.
The Coast Guard strongly urges all boaters to wear life jackets anytime while out on the water and to always check the weather conditions before heading out. Having proper survival gear while underway and filing a float plan with a friend or family member is strongly recommended.
“One of the key things to keep in mind is that even if it’s warm out, the water is still cold,” said Walt Taylor, the 1st Coast Guard District’s Recreational Boating Safety specialist. “When a person falls in cold water, their body responds to the initial shock with an instantaneous gasp for air, which if their head is underwater may cause the person to swallow water and drown.”