Wind chill, water could spell danger

Hiking and boating are wonderful ways to exercise and enjoy the outdoors. Take the family along if the hike isn't too strenuous and if the boating day is a calm one. One of the things you seldom consider when planning either a boat trip or a hike is the possibility of hypothermia. It can be just as dangerous in the middle of summer as it is in the winter.

Have you ever been out in a high desert thunderstorm? The temperature can drop 20 degrees in a matter of minutes. The wind that accompanies the storm will chill you through your wet clothes and drop your body temperature. You can quickly become a candidate for hypothermia.

If you hike around here you're hiking in hill country and that usually means climbing up into cooler temperatures. You start out wearing fewer clothes and end up needing more, especially when it rains. Be prepared for sudden changes in weather and carry extra clothing. Carry it in a large plastic trash bag to stay dry and the bag can double as a raincoat too. Just put your head through the bag and wear it.

Boating presents a more deadly combination of weather and cold water. Any outdoor water around here is cold. It never seems warm enough to swim in. So don't take chances when boating. Always wear a life jacket, even when it seems calm. Sudden boat wakes and sudden moves in the boat can swamp the most stable craft.

If you end up in the water, there are two methods you can adopt for keeping warm, depending on the type of life jacket you are wearing. If you are wearing a Type 1 or II jacket, the kind that helps keep your head out of the water when unconscious, you need to cross your arms over your chest, cross your ankles and draw up your knees to your chest. Place your hands on your shoulders. This position will conserve the most body heat. If your life jacket is a flotation device Type III, put your head back, your legs together and your arms pressed close to your sides. A Type III life jacket does not hold your head up if you are unconscious.

I have spent several cold, fearful hours in a lake hanging on to a sailboat during two awesome thunderstorms that raised five foot waves. You need knowledge and proper equipment to prevent hypothermia if you end up in the water. Check your supplies before you hike or boat and be sure your list includes supplies for the unexpected. Make it a safe summer for you and yours.

Jerry Vance is certified by the American Council on Exercise and teaches fitness at the Carson City Community Center and Healthsmart.


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