How to Protect Yourself from Cold-Water Exposure

Recreational water activities are particularly popular during the summer months, including paddle boarding, parasailing, kayaking and waterskiing. Unfortunately, warm weather during the summer doesn’t always mean there will be warm water. Cold-water immersion can be deadly.

Are you planning to enjoy recreational water activities this summer? The United States Coast Guard (USCG) recommends taking the following precautions to protect yourself from cold-water exposure and other accidents:

  • Understand the risks. Cold water greatly diminishes survival time during accidental immersion incidents. Shock, hypothermia and death can occur soon after immersion.
  • Come prepared. You should keep a VHF-FM radio, flares and a personal locator beacon with you at all times. Always tell someone where you will be going beforehand. If you are paddling, then the USCG recommends wearing a dry or wetsuit that is appropriate for the water temperatures.
  • Wear a lifejacket. You should wear a USCG-approved lifejacket if you are going to be enjoying recreational water activities this summer. The same is true for any passengers or family members on your vessel. Make sure the lifejackets fit properly.
  • Maintain situational awareness. According to the USCG, you should keep a close eye on the weather and other hazards near your boat.
  • Avoid boating under the influence. The USCG maintains that boating under the influence can keep you from recognizing and responding to hazards. Avoid alcohol use while enjoying recreational water activities.

Why Is Cold-Water Immersion Dangerous?

Exposure to cold water may lead to shock. When your head and chest are exposed to cold water, you may experience sudden increases in heart rate and blood pressure. This may cause your body to go into cardiac arrest.

Cold-water immersion can also lead to immersion hypothermia, which develops faster than standard hypothermia. Hypothermia is a dangerous lowering of the body temperature that can be fatal without prompt treatment. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), water conducts heat away from the body 25 times faster than air. The Mayo Clinic lists shivering, slurred speech, confusion, drowsiness, bright red skin, clumsiness and unconsciousness as symptoms of hypothermia.

The Massachusetts maritime attorneys at Latti & Anderson LLP can help you determine whether you have options for compensation after a boating accident. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.