Skip to content

Fitness & Exercise

Come on in, the Water's ... Freezing!!

Font Size
A
A
A
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

April 12, 2001 -- You'd think swimmers in balmy Miami wouldn't need to fear the cold.

In fact, though, even in the summertime the emergency room at Miami's Baptist Children's Hospital treats three or four children a month for hypothermia -- a condition that results when the body's temperature falls significantly below normal.

"Even though we have mild water here, we still do see kids with lowered core body temperatures every summer," says Francisco Medina, MD, director of emergency services at the hospital. "The water in this area is about 75 to 80 degrees, while normal body temperature is 98.6 or so, so that's still quite a difference. Young people have a greater surface area in proportion to their body mass, so they're at increased risk for heat loss."

Most of the children who come into the emergency room with hypothermia have prolonged exposure combined with a fall or some other trauma or accident in the water. Milder cases can be treated at home -- just wrap the child warmly.

"Take their temperature rectally, because you want to measure core body heat," Medina says.

Competitive athletes and others who swim in lakes, rivers, or the ocean also can lose too much body heat, without realizing it. And it's impossible to say exactly how long is too long, says Jamie Musler, MS, ATC.

"Everyone reacts differently. People who are better trained and more fit can last a longer time in a cold environment. People with a higher percentage of body fat tend to maintain body temperature for a longer time," says Musler, athletic training program director and coordinator of clinical education at the Bouve School of Health and Athletic Training at Northeastern University, in Boston.

Organizers of competitive swimming events need to stay alert to potential signs of distress, Musler says.

"Athletes tend to be highly motivated people, and because they're so focused on performance they may override warning signs of hypothermia. At distance-swimming events there should be well-designed emergency procedures in place. Observers should watch for changes in swimming patterns to identify when someone may be in trouble."

Healthy Living Tools

Ditch Those Inches

Set goals, tally calorie intake, track workouts and more, all via WebMD’s free Food & Fitness Planner.

Get Started

Today on WebMD

pilates instructor
15 moves that get results.
woman stretching before exercise
How and when to do it.
 
couple working out
Moves you can do at home.
woman exercising
Strengthen your core with these moves.
 
man exercising
Article
7 most effective exercises
Interactive
 
Man looking at watch before workout
Slideshow
Overweight man sitting on park bench
Video
 

Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

It's nothing to sneeze at.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

pilates instructor
Slideshow
jogger running among flowering plants
Video
 
woman walking
Article
Taylor Lautner
Article