Cold Water


Courtesy US Coast Guard

To Do Today:

  • PT – Cardio – 1hr Swim // Strength – Chest and Biceps
  • Practice the floatation methods described below in a pool until mastered

Avoiding Heat Loss in Cold Water

The rate of heat exchange in water is about 25 times greater than it is in air of the same  temperature. When you are immersed in cold water, hypothermia occurs rapidly due to the  decreased insulating quality of wet clothing and as a result of water displacing the layer of still  air that normally surrounds the body.

Survival-TableYou also lose about 50 percent of your body heat through your head; therefore, keep your head out of the water. Other areas of high heat loss are the neck, the armpits/sides, and the groin:

heatloss1In cold water, DO NOT SWIM TO STAY WARM. Swimming, even with a slow and steady stroke, produces a lot of heat that is lost in the water. The heat loss can produce hypothermia that slows body functions and can result in serious injury or death. Remaining motionless conserves body heat three times longer than swimming. SWIM only if you have flotation and the shoreline is visible.

Individual Protection From Cold Water

If you are equipped with a life preserver, assume the Heat Escape Lessening Posture (known as  the HELP position) to slow heat loss and to protect major blood vessels near the body’s surface.  These areas lack insulating fat and are vulnerable to the chilling effects of cold water.

heatloss2To assume the HELP position:

  • Tuck your chin down tightly to cover your throat.
  • Draw your legs up in a fetal position to protect the groin.
  • Place your arms across your chest, tuck your hands into your armpits.
  • Wear some type of head covering (e.g., stowed cover, towel, handkerchief) to lessen heat loss through the scalp if head covering is available.

Group Protection From the Cold

If three or more swimmers are in the water and are equipped with life preservers, they should wedge tightly together and lock arms to form a circle known as a huddle position.

heatloss3This position protects vulnerable areas from heat loss. A casualty who is suffering from the effects of the cold can be placed within the huddle to be surrounded by warmer water. If in the water for a  prolonged period, it is recommended that everyone be rotated inside the huddle to maintain or re-warm each person’s internal core temperature. If there are more than five swimmers, they  should make clusters of huddle positions. Contact with other swimmers provides survival advantages:

  • Creates a larger target for search and rescue aircraft
  • Provides additional warmth in cold water
  • Improves morale
  • Establishes/re-establishes leadership
  • Reduces shock and panic
  • Provides opportunities to administer first aid
  • Supports the exhausted

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