That being the case, perhaps this is the best time to issue our annual cautionary note about the dangers of hypothermia. Simply put, hypothermia occurs when exposure to wind, cold and wetness drain heat from the body faster than it can be produced.
Remember extreme cold is not required for hypothermia to develop. As a matter of fact, most cases occur when the air temperature is between 30 and 50 degrees.
If you break through the ice while out on any lake, get out of the water as soon as possible and head for a warmer place immediately. Shuck those wet clothes if possible and replace them with drier, warmer ones to prevent any further heat loss.
Heat loss can be caused not only by falling through the ice but also by being wet from rain, excessive sweating, being in a steady wind without the proper clothing to block it or even overexertion or fatigue, and it can happen even when the air temperature is deceptively pleasant.
In the very early stages of the condition symptoms may be subtle and difficult to spot, but could include shivering, stumbling and decreased manual dexterity. At this stage an extra layer of clothing, some warm, sweet liquids and a high-energy food such as a candy bar can reverse the symptoms.
If the condition continues you may note more intense shivering, difficulty in speaking and slowed responses. You’re still not in really big trouble at this point, but you’re getting close and it would be wise to follow the preceding remedial efforts but also get into a warmer environment as well, be it indoors, in your vehicle or even at a campfire.
If the condition persists or worsens, from here on it’s all down hill. All of the above remedial steps should be taken immediately and the person monitored closely, and medical attention is necessary and advisable and should be sought as soon as possible. If a person’s core temperature falls much below 90 degrees the situation is critical.
Also, it’s important to not drink anything with alcohol in it, since it could have the opposite effect by making you feel a bit warmer without actually raising your core temperature, thus masking the symptoms.
Just remember that the lower the body’s core temperature drops, the more difficult it becomes to reverse it and the more likely immediate medical intervention will be necessary.
DON’T TAKE CHANCES
It’s better to overdress when out in the elements because you can always remove a layer of clothing if you don’t need it, but not having extra warm, dry clothing when you need it is a problem. You can always remove a garment if it gets too warm and put it back on later if you need to.
Also, dress properly, preferably in layers of wool and fleece, but not cotton. Also, wear a wool or fleece hat as well as gloves or mittens (remember that wool insulates even when wet), Gore-Tex or similar wind/rain resistant outerwear and good quality winter boots.
I can’t over-emphasize the importance of a good windbreaker. A cold and/or damp wind can drain heat from your body at a prodigious rate, but a good windbreaker can keep that wind or breeze from penetrating your inner layers of clothing and will really help you retain body warmth longer.
Also, eat enough food to maintain your energy level and warmth. Think of your body as a furnace: the amount of warmth and energy it produces will be totally dependent upon the quality and quantity of the food you eat. That food is the fuel for the “furnace.”
Hypothermia can kill; it can do so in subtle, insidious fashion; and a warm, 50-degree day is no insurance against it. Keep an eye on your hunting, ice fishing, skiing, ATVing or snowmobiling companions. Learn to recognize the symptoms of hypothermia and know what to do in the event it occurs.