Why Cold Water is Dangerous
Cold weather does not have to be a time to stay off the water. Always dress for immersion and be aware of the very real threat of cold water.
Take a few minutes to look through the National Center for Cold Water site. It may save your life.
With very few exceptions, immersion in cold water is immediately life-threatening if you’re not wearing thermal protection like a wetsuit or drysuit. The biggest danger is inhaling water and drowning - even if the water is flat calm and you know how to swim.
Many people considered good swimmers have drowned in cold water - even though they were within 6 feet of shore. Many canoe and kayak paddlers have drowned immediately after capsizing. In fact, many kayakers have drowned before they could even exit their boats. How is this possible?
Most cold water fatalities are drownings because cold shock causes an immediate loss of breathing control, and as you’re about to find out, this involves a lot more than simply gasping for air.
Stages of Immersion
To understand why some cold water deaths happen instantly, while others take hours, you need to be familiar with the four stages of cold water immersion. Click on the links below for detailed information:
- Stage 1: Cold Shock
- Stage 2: Physical Incapacitation
- Stage 3: Hypothermia
- Stage 4: Circumrescue Collapse
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The Source: National Center for Cold Water Safety is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.