The Downtown Boathouse Cold Water Workshop

Sponsored by the New York Kayak Company
Randall Henriksen - President, Jessica - Instructor/Sales


Examination and Life Support

Mildly hypothermic person, that is fully awake, conscious, and is shivering actively has the ability to recover spontaneously when remover from the cold water. He/she does not need emergency treatment, but should be evaluated in a medical facility as soon as possible. Dry clothing, keep warm, give warm sugar-containing fluids. Do not give coffee, tea, alcohol.

Moderately hypothermic victims should be urgently transported to an emergency care facility. Dry clothing, keep wann, could put in a sleeping bag with a normothermic person. They can be given warm, sugar-containing liquids only if they are awake and able to swallow. Avoid coffee, tea, alcohol.


Severely hypothermic patients:

- no palpable pulse, no respirations — CPR, EMS activation

- palpable carotid pulse, slow respiration — no CPR, EMS activation Even 2-3 heart beats/mm and 1-2 breaths/mm may be enough to sustain life. Make sure that you check the carotid pulse for at least 1 frill minute. Starting CPR in such victim may be harmful — cold heart muscle is very sensitive to mechanical insult.

- palpable pulse present, no respiration — start rescue breathing, EMS activation

Keep positive attitude! Even if they appear dead, severely hypothermic victims have been successfully revived after being warmed up. Remember, a hypothermia victim is never cold and dead, only warm and dead!


Stabilization and insulation


The main goal is to stabilize the core temperature with minimal after-drop.

1. remove victim’s wet clothing
2. keep movements of the body to minimum and handle very gently
3. dry out the skin
4. put on dry, insulating clothing, sleeping bags, blankets
5. administer humidified heated air or oxygen to the victim via mask if available
6. conservative application of moderate external heat to neck, trunk, groin areas — hot-water bottles, hot packs, heating pads — avoid direct contact with the skin
7. body-to-body rewarming — in a sleeping bag, lateral chest to lateral chest
8. administration of warm-hot liquids orally — only in completely conscious victim with intact gag and cough reflexes, who is able to swallow
9. alcohol is absolutely contraindicated! !!!


Mildly hypothermic victims could be treated in any emergency care facility.

Moderately and severely hypothermic persons should de transported to facility equipped to handle potential complications and provide core rewarming such as cardiac bypass equipment.


Adriana Manikian, MD

NYU School of Medicine — Bellevue Hospital

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