Fatal Effect Of ‘After Drop’ On Hypothermia Victims

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Posted by on December 14, 2004 at 12:53:44:

Log News Service - “After-Drop,” a serious complication of hypothermia often is responsible for the death of victims of hypothermia who otherwise appear to be on the road to recovery.

The fall 2004 issue of the Cal Boating Adviser - a publication of the California Department of Boating and Waterways - contains a comprehensive article on hypothermia, including the dangers of after-drop, that should be read by every boater.

In the article, the department warns of the serious consequences of not taking measures to protect hypothermia victims from after drop and other complications.

The following excerpts are from the department’s article:

In the late 1800s, a Swedish ship with a crew of 13 foundered in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic. Fortunately, a passing ship came upon the scene, and all 13 were pulled from the water alive.

A rendezvous was arranged for the next day with another ship that would take them home.

In the meantime, they were given dry clothes and blankets, a hot dinner, plenty of brandy, and beds for the night.

But the following day, all of them were dead!…

What killed the Swedish sailors?

Before the complications arising from hypothermia were well understood, survivors of cold-water boating mishaps were commonly given the kind of care those sailors received. Often victims cared for in this way seemed at first to recover, only to die from the effects of improper re-warming.

A hypothermia victim’s blood is coldest in the constricted vessels of the extremities, which may be as low as 40 to 50 degrees below the core temperature. If the victim is given alcohol, or the extremities are re-warmed too quickly, the constricted blood vessels expand, carrying cold blood back to the heart and lungs, further lowering the core body temperature, which can be fatal…

Even if it appears the victim has recovered, seek medical advice as soon as possible in moderate or severe cases of hypothermia, to preclude after-drop and other complications.

The department warns that, in the marine environment, the rapid onset of hypothermia can result from an accidental fall into the water, which conducts heat from the body 25 to 30 times faster than air.

Even in triple-digit temperatures, prolonged exposure to water as warm as 50 to 59 degrees in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta has resulted in hypothermia, the department said.

A copy of the Cal Boating Advisor, which contains the article on hypothermia, may be obtained by mail or by calling June Iljana, the department’s information officer at (916) 263 0788 or from the department’s Web site at http://dbw.ca.gov/PDF/advisor_Fall2004.pdf.

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