Despite what most of you may think sudden immersion into icy water will NOT send you immediately into hypothermia and self rescue IS possible. Dr. Gorden Giesbrect, a specialist in cold water immersion at the University of Manitoba summarizes what happens to us when we take the plunge. His 1-10-1 principle has immediate implications for ice self rescue strategy.
1 – You have ONE MINUTE to get your breathing under control. When suddenly submerged the body experiences what is known as the cold water gasp reflex. Involuntary gasping can occur and it possible to aspirate water into the lungs. In most circumstances your first priority should be to just get your breathing under control. After about a minute the gasping will subside, the skin numbs and the feeling of intense cold will decrease.
10 – You will then have about 10 MINUTES of meaningful movement. This is your window for self rescue.
1– You have ONE HOUR before losing consciousness. After about 10 minutes you will loose the ability to effectively use your arms and legs due to the effects of the cold water. The actual time it takes to become unconscious depends on a number of variables including what you are wearing. Bottom line…. Once you fall unconscious (if you are not frozen to the ice shelf) you will slip below the surface and drown. Even if unresponsive, if you can keep your airway above water rescue is possible within two hours.
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