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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Hypothermia a threat to outdoorsmen

Earlier this winter when the wind chill temperatures hovered at minus 29, it reminded me of the stories of the Yukon by Robert Service that I faithfully read when I was young. In those stories such as “To Build a Fire” or “The Cremation of Sam McGee,” men ended up freezing to death. Today they say people die of hypothermia.
But few people think about this danger except in extreme temperatures or when someone gets wet. But hypothermia is a constant danger if you have an accident or are not properly prepared for conditions.
Hypothermia does not only occur when people are stranded in remote area under extremely frigid conditions. In fact hypothermia occurs most frequently at temperatures of 32-50 degrees. It presents a danger to hunters, ice fishermen, skiers, hikers or anyone who fails to take precautions and use common sense. Getting wet from a fall in water, clothing soaked by snow or rain or even perspiration can be unpleasant in many cases. When the temperatures or wind chill are severe enough it can be fatal.
It is a very real danger to hikers and skiers who overestimate their ability or underestimate the elements. Hunters or others who get lost or stray too deep into the woods without being properly prepared are vulnerable. Improper clothing, over-exertion and perspiration, accidentally getting wet or unexpected changes in the weather all hold potential for disaster.
Hypothermia is simply the loss of body heat faster than the body can produce heat, until the core body temperature has dropped below 80 degrees, at which time death occurs. Cold temperatures are aggravated by wetness, wind and exhaustion. Proper preparation includes having the type of clothing so that you can dress for the varying conditions that you may meet, considering both moisture and temperature. Gloves, hat and proper footwear are essential in winter or other cold conditions.
Clothing should be layered, so that it can be removed for heavy activity, or added to for light activity. Don’t wait until you start to sweat before you start removing layers. By that time, inner layers are wet, and evaporation can turn your moist underwear into a refrigeration unit. When you stop activity, add a layer before you start to chill.
Wear proper clothing. Cotton and blue jeans are just not suitable cold weather equipment because cotton speeds the cooling process by acting as a wick to draw off heat. Wool, on the other hand, retains heat even when wet. New synthetics such as polypropylene, thermax, etc. all have the ability to keep you warm yet are light in weight.
Your energy comes from foods you eat, so take along enough to fully recover your needs. Carbohydrates are quick energy foods. The good old peanut butter sandwich or chocolate bars are good to take along as energy rations to heat you up on a cold day.
Drink proper liquids to keep your body fluids up. Coffee acts as a diuretic so it does not replenish lost fluids. Contrary to popular opinion, alcohol does not “warm you up.” Alcohol slows down the circulation of blood and thus tends to cool down the body.
Early detection of symptoms is important in preventing hypothermia. As a victim slips into the first stage, his thinking becomes dull. It is easy not to recognize these symptoms in yourself. People in a group should be alert for these symptoms in others.
Early symptoms include exhaustion and an inability to go on, even after resting. There is often drowsiness, lapses of memory, slurred slow speech, and stumbling when trying to proceed.
At first, the extremities like hands and feet feel the cold. Then the body makes involuntary adjustments to preserve temperature in vital organs by intense shivering. As body temperature continues to drop, the shivering becomes violent, slurred speech develop, and there is drowsiness and fumbling hands.
If there is not treatment, when the body temperature drops between 90 and 86 degrees, there will be muscular rigidity, irrationality and stupor. Finally unconsciousness and death will result.
If symptoms occur, get the victim out of the wind and wet, into dry clothes, feed warm drinks and high energy foods. If possible, build a fire or put the victim into a sleeping bag with skin-to-skin contact with a “heat donor.”
Naturally the best solution is prevention of the conditions that can lead to hypothermia. Wear proper clothing and carry extra clothing, matches and emergency like a space blanket. Eat and drink properly and carry emergency rations.
Pay close attention to weather conditions, don’t get lost, and do not push yourself beyond your ability. Avoid getting wet from perspiration, rain, or falling through ice. Tumbling into a shallow stream in late spring can be unpleasant; in winter it can be fatal.
Hypothermia is known as the killer of the unprepared. With a little preparation and common sense your winter outing can be a safe and pleasant one.
CNY Sportsman’s Show: The popular CNY Sportsman’s Show returns to the Kallet Civic Center on Saturday, Feb. 7. It is your chance to find out information and plan a fishing charter; become involved with worthwhile organizations like Fish Creek Atlantic Salmon Club, NYS Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame and more; find bargains in fishing tackle and sporting goods and meet fellow sportsmen who are looking for a cure for cabin fever.
A full lineup of vendors and exhibits, including many new ones, will appeal to all outdoor interests. Hunters, fishermen and outdoor enthusiasts will find much to browse and purchase including fishing tackle, game calls, archery equipment and hunting accessories. There will be a full range of seminars with schedules announced next week.
Even those who are not hunters or anglers will find treasures among the artists and photographers on exhibit. Popular artist Tom Lenweaver will return with his wide array of original art or prints. You will have a chance to see and purchase the outstanding wildlife photography of Sue Kiesel whose work has been featured in Adirondack Outdoors magazine as well as her book on the snowy owl.
The popular author’s section will return with a variety of topics and books to choose from and get signed copies. Among those featured will be Bob Elinskas, author of books on Adirondack deer hunting, Mike Kelly former outdoor columnist for the Post Standard with several of his books, and Spider Rybaak with his guides to Fishing Eastern or Western New York with complete information, maps, etc. Also featured will be Rob Streeter with his book on fly fishing and his DVD on fishing for smallmouth bass; Nancy Best, author of two Adirondack cookbooks and Jay O’Hern who has written many books on Adirondack characters or tales.
You will also have the opportunity to visit directly with experts like Jim Massett and Joe DiNitto on Adirondack deer hunting at their meet and greet booth, and talk with the well known Adirondack deer hunters Pat and Tony Salerno while admiring their amazing collection of mounts.
Check out the custom made turkey calls from NWTF award-winning call maker Gary Campanie. Shawn Fox will be there to demonstrate and sell his array of quality calls for waterfowl, turkeys and more.
If you haven’t sent in your nomination for CNY Sportsman of the Year, be sure to send to Teri Maciag at Holy Cross Academy by this weekend. This person should be a well-rounded, ethical sportsman who has done much to contribute to our outdoor sports. The award will be presented at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
See you at the Show!
Great Backyard Bird Count: This year’s Great Backyard Bird Count organized by the Audubon society will be Feb. 13–16. Spend as little as 15 minutes or as much time as you want and report the results. It is easy, fun, free and it’s important. Anyone can participate. Check the website for details.


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