If you cannot get out of the water quickly, act to protect against rapid heat loss. In as few as 10 minutes, you may be unable to self-rescue.
- Stay as motionless as possible, protecting the high heat loss areas of your body, and keep your head and neck out of the water.
- Safety typically looks closer than it actually is, so staying with the boat is usually a better choice than swimming.
- Adopt a position to reduce heat loss. If alone, use the Heat Escape Lessening Posture (HELP) position; if there are others in the water with you, huddle together.
- Be prepared at all times to signal rescuers.
Advanced Stages of Hypothermia
When a victim has these symptoms, dry clothing, heat, and medical attention are required immediately:
- Bluish-white appearance
- Weak heartbeat
- Shallow breathing
- Rigid body muscles
- May be unconscious
The HELP and Huddle Positions
Heat Escape Lessening Posture (HELP): When you are alone, this position protects the body’s three major areas of heat loss (groin, head/neck, and rib cage/armpits). Wearing a PFD allows you to draw your knees to your chest and your arms to your sides.
Huddling With Others: Huddling with other people in the water lessens the loss of body heat and is good for morale. Also, rescuers can spot a group more easily than individuals.