Chiller killer: Dealing with hypothermia

Mike Frenette fights a big redfish. Redfish can tolerate cold temperatures better than most other fish. (Photo courtesy Mike Frenette)

Hypothermia occurs when a body’s core temperature drops too low and impairs body functions. It can occur even at temperatures well above 40 degrees.

Water exacerbates the situation by dissipating heat away from the body. If someone falls into the water or gets splashed with heavy spray, that shocks the body and it begins cooling. People start shivering, the body’s first attempt to warm itself. Teeth chattering follows and people slur their words. They become disoriented and can’t do simple functions adequately.

First, get that person out of the wet clothing and into something dry and warm as soon as possible. With the body unable to warm itself, victims need external heat. This could come from a heater, hot liquids or direct skin-to-skin contact with an unaffected person.

“People who go fishing in the winter need to be conscious of what the weather’s doing,” said Bobby Beroular. “They need to bring extra clothes in case something happens. I always carry extra clothing in case a customer didn’t bring enough or gets wet.”

As soon as possible, get that person into a heated vehicle or shelter and out of the wind. Away from a vehicle or building, make a fire if possible. The person might feel exhausted and drowsy, but don’t let the victim sit still or lie down. Keep the person moving. Don’t let the person drink alcohol because that slows a body’s ability to warm itself.

Treated early, victims recover quickly with no ill effects. If not treated, hypothermia could result in death.

About John N. Felsher 56 Articles
An avid sportsman, John N. Felsher is a full-time professional freelance writer and photographer with more than 3,300 bylines in more than 160 different magazines. He also hosts an outdoors tips show for WAVH FM Talk 106.5 radio station in Mobile, Ala. Contact him at or through Facebook.

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