May is the most deadly month on the water

May 15, 2015

Fishing boatMay is the opening of boating season.

However, the early part of the season also brings an increased risk for drowning making May the most deadly month on the water. Why? When day time temperatures start reaching the 60’s and 70’s, it’s easy to forget that water temperatures are still very cold and you may be tempted to jump in.

Those low water temps increase the risk of  cold water shock, which can lead to drowning or a heart attack even before hypothermia occurs.

Cold water shock causes a person first to gasp involuntarily & when that happens underwater a person can start to drown.

Gasping is immediately followed by hyperventilation – very rapid, out-of-control breathing. Hyperventilation makes it very difficult if not completely impossible to swim.

Hyperventilation also results in hypocapnia, a reduction of the level of carbon dioxide in your blood which can cause dizziness, numbness and cramping of hands and feet, loss of consciousness and then within 10 minutes cold incapacitation can set in.  

Keep in mind cold water immersion also causes an instantaneous and massive increase in heart rate and blood pressure due to the blood vessels in your skin constricting. In some individuals this can result in heart attack or stroke.

The best prevention is not to get in the water until water temperatures in the lakes have had a chance to rise, and to have everyone wear life jackets so in case someone falls or jumps in their head is kept above water in the critical first few minutes. Many life jackets are also designed to insulate or keep your body temperature warm while out in the water. These are great reasons to always wear life jackets even if not required to by law due to size/length of the boat.