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Old 06-29-2011   #11
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Eagle, Colorado
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I'll pull the article. I think I got the two switched.

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Old 06-29-2011   #12
Meridian, Idaho
Paddling Since: 1998
Join Date: Jul 2009
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Although many of those medical terms are over my head, this is a very informative thread. Hopefully this one will continue on so that people can become more familiar with combating the "effects" of a cold water swim.

I may be setting myself up for some involuntary laughs, but two weeks ago we flipped in the lower section of the Lochsa at Hellgate rapid. I will admit that I made the mistake of think this was the "beer drinking section" although we weren't drinking, and did not realize how big this rapid was.

Admittedly, over the last 5-6 years I have put on 30 lbs and had recently given up another habit. No excuses, but it happened. The last time I've been in a boat that flipped was 8 years ago and I was in nearly tip top shape and the cold water did not have any adverse effects on me.

This time though, I was tired, out of breath, had a pulsing head just from the short swim and had a hell of a time pulling myself on the raft. Kind of a rude awakening, but I've already made provision to not be that wiped out again and not be able to self rescue.

I am a firm believer (now) that if you think you're going to take a swim in the earlier part of the season, you had better be in relatively decent physical and cardio shape. I truly believe that had I not mustered the last bit of strength to pull myself up, I would have possibly succumbed to the water, more from exhaustion than the cold. Although I know the cold water was a big contributor to my exhaustion.

Now with that long winded comment out of the way, I do have a few questions to help myself understand more and to keep the discussion going:

On the other hand, dry drowning is a completely different process. Dry drowning involves water reaching the larynx, which results in a spasm that closes the lungs to water. The lungs don't fill with water and the victim suffers a heart attack from the lack of oxygen to the heart muscles.
This statement (sort of) makes sense but......Is it just a quick spasm that goes away or does it linger like a charlie horse can? Does the larynx not open back up. I would have to assume that it stays closed because 15 seconds would not be enough to cause lack of oxygen to the brain..?..

What about when someone takes a nice really cold drink of ice water or takes an overly large bite of ice cream? That water is just as cold, if not colder than even spring run off. Is there that much more water reaching the Larynx than a large glass of something cold purposely going down the throat.

One thing that I learned in a Swift Water class was that when you initially get dumped in very cold water it is very important to exhale a first deep breath which I believe helps to keep the lungs working. I haven't done any research on this but do believe it helps cause I sure do practically "lock up" with the initial shock of the water which I think could result in cardiac arrest if I wasn't in shape and relatively young?
If you let out a big exhale in anticipation of the immersion, wouldn't you naturally want to inhale that much more readily in the event of hitting that really cold water, which would more likely cause an ingestion of water?

Great discussion so far....


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Old 06-29-2011   #13
Haley Station, Ontario
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: Nov 2010
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Hey Rob,

No stupid questions when it comes to safety and learning. I always brief my crew in cold water situations to relax and take a big breath out when you first hit the water. It's not in anticipation as you are already in the drink at this point. I always thought this technique was a way of calming someone down and usually most people will take a big breath in just before hitting the water (natural instinct). Then when they resurface they try to inhale again (again natural from being underwater) and can't because their lungs are already full. When they can't seem to take a breath in- panic sets in and it's downhill from there. Anyone have a scientific reason for this? I do know from experience it does work but don't know exactly why this is just what I've observed.

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Old 06-29-2011   #14
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Albany, Oregon
Paddling Since: 2002
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Posts: 256
All this talk of the heart attack mechanism is interesting, but academic when your friend is lying motioness.

CPR training is the minimum level of situation preparation in which regular boaters should invest.
For a 2007 GC trip, we wanted a little more insurance and purchased an AED as a group expense. As we're all getting older, some of us approaching 60 faster than we'd like, it seemed like a wise investment of ~ $100 per person to have that extra insurance. Kind of like the painter line strps I string from my boat.

Certainly not practical for everyone, but if you frequently organize or participate in large multi-day trips with upper-middle-age folks, something to consider.

Here's a link to the model we selected: Automated External Defibrillator - AED Plus - AEDs for CPR - CPR Feedback

Jerry Malloy
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Old 06-29-2011   #15
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Eagle, Colorado
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I didn't write down the comment into my notes so just ignore my comment. The more I think about it I think she said that it was 80% wet, which surprised me b/c I had always thought that most people had "dry drownings".
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Old 06-29-2011   #16
denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1977
Join Date: Apr 2009
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I've heard similar accounts from rescue professionals about people being unable to inhale when swimming large rapids because they forget to exhale. The recommendation they made was when you pass thru the tops of waves underwater, exhale on one and inhale on the next. I don't know how people know that this happens apart from personal experience of realizing you did it, but it does seem like it would be a natural reaction.
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Old 06-29-2011   #17
Grand Junction, Colorado
Join Date: Mar 2010
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Wow! I didn't think I would get this much response. Everything said has been very interesting... I wish I could comment, but I'm on the road for a few days. Thanks for all the input..

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