Water safety is important all year round

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This letter is in response to the article “Red Cross encourages safe summer boating,” by Andrew Robinson in The Telegram, July 13.

The article brought up the important issue of safety on the water in the province.

As a student at Memorial University studying kinesiology, I feel there is a need to highlight safety precautions for other months of the year, primarily those in which immersion into cold water may occur.

Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht of the University of Manitoba, who studies human responses in extreme environments, has emphasized the 1-10-1 rule for cold water immersion, which states: one minute of cold shock, 10 minutes of functional movement time and potentially one hour before the effects of hypothermia and loss of consciousness occur.

Knowing people of the province venture out on cold waters, often ice covered, there are things to keep in mind: Upon entering cold water, the abrupt temperature change causes a cold shock response: a gasp reflex, hyperventilation and an inability to hold one’s breath occur, often leading to an abrupt drowning.

As the vasoconstriction of the arteries continues, and blood moves towards the core of the body to protect the heart, and the limited blood to the extremities leaves a small window of functional muscle time to escape from the water.

If escape or rescue does not occur, the lack of a personal flotation device (PFD) may result in drowning.

As the body struggles to maintain its core temperature, hypothermia may set in, decreasing mental functioning and the ability to move.

Eventual unconsciousness and death may result.

Be smart. Wear a PFD, and be prepared if you are heading out on the water at any time of the year.

Saul Maynard

St. John’s

Organizations: Red Cross, University of Manitoba

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