When the body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, the body’s inner core temperature drops below norm. This is called hypothermia, and it can be deadly. In Montana, hypothermia is a danger year round and can occur both on land and in the water. A person who dies after falling into cold water is usually the victim of cold water immersion, a process that includes hypothermia.
Know the causes
The 4 factors that contribute to hypothermia:
As temperatures decrease, the danger of hypothermia increases. Hypothermia most often occurs when temperatures are between 20° and 50°(F). Do not underestimate the danger of these temperatures, especially when combined with other factors.
Staying dry is critical if you are involved in outdoor recreation. Wetness against your skin, whether it is from working up a sweat, getting caught in foul weather, snow melting on you, or a plunge into cold water, increases the likelihood of your body losing a dangerous amount of heat. Clothing can lose up to 90% of it insulating value when it gets wet.
Wind, combined with cool temperatures, has a chilling effect on exposed skin. Even a light wind will carry heat away from the body.
When you’re tired, you may not have enough energy to stay warm. Lack of food and drink also lowers the body’s ability to produce heat. Our bodies use food to produce heat, and we often overlook the importance of drinking water in cold weather. Dehydration is a frequent contributor to the development of hypothermia.