ODNR reminder: Water can be treacherously cold as the weather turns colder

Press Staff Writer

        The official start of winter is upon us – Dec. 21 – and water temperatures in lakes and rivers are dropping.
        For those still getting out on Ohio’s waterways, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) is reminding people that cold water will cool a body 25 times faster than cold air of the same temperature.
        Water cooler than the normal body temperature of 98.6 degrees causes heat loss.  Nearly 90% of boating fatalities are due to drowning, and nearly half of those are attributed to the effects of immersion in cold water.
        “Our outdoor spaces are great in any weather, but there are dangers associated with cold water that could put even the most skilled paddlers and swimmers at risk,” ODNR Director Mary Mertz said.  “While we want everyone to enjoy the seasonable weather, we want to make sure everyone is prepared and that starts with wearing a life jacket.”
        Wearing a life jacket is as important as wearing a seatbelt while driving. A properly fitted life jacket will keep a person’s airway out of the water – which is most important when the gasping reflex begins. Heart rate and blood pressure increase dramatically, increasing the risk for cardiac arrest. The victim may hyperventilate and find it difficult to get air into the lungs.
        The cold weather could also affect other outdoor activities like hiking. People can prepare for the colder temperatures by taking the following steps before leaving the house:
        • Dress appropriately and use layers.
        • Always check the weather report.
        • Make sure your phone is charged.
        • Tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to return.
        ODNR has more advice for staying safe while enjoying the outdoors online at odnr.gov.


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