Beware of the cold

It has been many years ago, but I remember it very well. One minute I was standing on the banks of a river in the northern region of Alaska and the next minute I was under the water getting carried downriver.

It was September and the temperature was about 15 to 20 degrees with the water temperature at a balmy 34 degrees. To make a long story short, a rope attached to a boat decided to grab my ankle and yank me out into the river. I had a Coast Guard approved flotation suit on.

Even with that suit on, I will never forget the feeling of that cold water hitting my unprotected head and face. It literally takes your breath away. It all ended well as within seconds as I was up and yanked out of the water. The flotation suit did its job, and I was no worse for the wear. Under different circumstances, it could have proved fatal. Why? A little condition called hypothermia.

For the last several weeks, I have been observing a gathering of ice fisherman on Pony Creek. With the extremely cold conditions that we have been experiencing, the ice has thickened on the lake to be able to support the fishing activity. There is nothing more fun than pulling some fish through a 12-inch hole in the ice. I have driven past Pony Creek a dozen times, and every time I see those fishermen on the ice, I think about falling into that frigid water and what the consequences could be.

Just what is hypothermia? Hypothermia is a condition when the body loses its heat faster than it can produce it. Not complicated at all. When your body comes into contact with something such as cold water, your body heat is conducted away from you. Something to remember here is that cold air can do the same thing that water can. But there is no better heat loss conductor than cold water. Over the last few years, the outdoor apparel companies have come out with some great products to help eliminate the danger of hypothermia.

Another important thing to remember is that it does not have to be -25 degrees below zero wind chill to bring on hypothermic conditions. Hypothermia can take place when the air temperature is a balmy 50 degrees! If you are actively sweating during the activity you are participating in and the air temperature is cool, you are at risk of hypothermia. Sounds impossible, but it is not.

If the clothing you are wearing during your exertion period does not wick away the moisture from your body, you are asking for it. With your body drenched in sweat, you have basically immersed your body in water. That moisture will conduct the body heat from your core, and you are headed for trouble. Your normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees, and hypothermia can begin when your body temperature drops below 95 degrees.

Usually the first sign of hypothermia is when the body begins to shiver. The warning signs of hypothermia are very subtle and are not easily recognized. The real danger of encroaching hypothermia is that the capability of thinking clearly becomes difficult, thus recognizing the symptoms becomes difficult. It is a dangerous downward spiral.

So how do you combat this silent killer? Yes, it can kill you. If you are ice fishing, always be prepared for the possibility of falling through the ice. Even if that ice is 12 inches thick, weird events can and do happen. Wear a flotation device and carry some rope with you.

Never go ice fishing by yourself. I know a lot of fisherman are going to scoff at that notion, but every year I read stories about people who are alone and fall through the ice.

When you are outside, wear clothing that will wick away moisture from your body as you perspire. There is a lot of good clothing out there to aid in the prevention of hypothermia. It is not expensive, and it really works. Just a few easy precautions can keep you safe, dry and warm so you can enjoy the cool weather while you are active.

Tim Kellenberger127 Posts

Tim Kellenberger serves as Owner, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief for The Sabetha Herald since 2004. He specializes in sports reporting and column writing, as well as sports photography. Tim is a Grace University graduate with a dual degree in agricultural economics and human resource management. He lives in rural Sabetha with his wife and has four grown children and two grandchildren.

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