We are very fortunate to live in an area where we have a large number of lakes and rivers, which offer us the option of fishing, boating, swimming or just hanging out at the cabin. With the fluctuation of people comes the fluctuation of law enforcement issues involving our water and I felt compelled as your sheriff to address this important topic.
Hypothermia is a lowered body temperature less than 95 degrees F and can be described as being mild, moderate or severe. The presentation may range from shivering and goose bumps to profound confusion, coma or death. The lowering of the body temperature occurs as the body is robbed of heat by the surroundings and it should be known that water conducts body heat away up to 26 times faster than air of the same temperature. Normal body function often times slows down with decreasing heart rate and decreasing respiratory and metabolic rates, which are medically hard to reverse.
It is important to remember that cold water is defined as anything less than 70 degrees and that we are now getting to that temperature on most of our area lakes. Most of the lakes in Minnesota are below 70 degrees for much of the year and although the air may be warm, the water still may be very cold.
Cold water rescue is performed on all victims that are recovered within the first hour in water temperature below 70 degrees. The 50/50 rule applies when it comes to cold water - 50 percent of the people will not be able to swim 50 yards in 50-degree water.
It also should be noted that personal floatation devices do very little to protect you when they are at the bottom of the boat. Having been a dive team member and rescue diver for many years, very seldom does a diver recover a drowning victim who is wearing a life jacket.
With nice days ahead of us and much of our summer to enjoy, it's important to remember to stay safe.
TODD DAHL is the Crow Wing County sheriff.
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