PIEDMONT, Mo. - The start of a new year is a great time for friends and family to enjoy the outdoors together. However, it is also the time of year when hypothermia can change a carefree fishing, camping or hunting trip into a life threatening situation.

Hypothermia results from exposure to cold weather, water or wind. It occurs when more heat escapes than your body can produce. It usually develops gradually and can catch you by surprise. Yet when clothing is wet or a victim is submerged in cold water, hypothermia can set in within minutes. Initial symptoms can be fatigue, slurred speech, poor decision-making, muscle weakness, shivering and an "I'm all right" attitude. These individuals can rapidly deteriorate and die.

Additional risk factors include wearing improper clothing, fatigue, exhaustion, dehydration, poor food intake and alcohol consumption. If you observe these symptoms, take immediate action.

* Move the person out of the cold to prevent additional heat loss. If you are unable to move the person to a warm place, shield the person from cold and wind as best you can. Get medical help.

* Remove wet clothing and replace it with a dry covering. Cover the person's head. Try not to move the person too much. Cut away wet clothing if you need to.

* Insulate the victim from the cold ground. Use a blanket or other warm surface.

* Provide warm, nonalcoholic beverages to help warm the body if the person is alert and able to swallow.

* Monitor breathing. A person with severe hypothermia may be unconscious with no signs of a pulse or breathing. If breathing has stopped or appears dangerously low or shallow, begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation immediately if you are trained.

* Apply warm compresses to the neck, chest and groin. Do not apply direct heat, such as hot water, a heating pad or a heat lamp. Do not apply heat to arms and legs because it forces cold blood back toward the heart, lungs and brain, causing the core body temperature to drop, which can be fatal. Do not shake, rub or massage the victim because this increases the potential for cardiac arrest.

Hypothermia is sly but very real and can quickly turn fatal. So when you venture out to Clearwater Lake this winter bring extra clothes, stay dry, and wear a life jacket when on your boat. Let someone know where you are and when you will return. Be cautious, and know the environment around you. Your safety is our number one concern.

To ensure a developed campsite will be available upon your arrival, call the National Recreation Reservation Service at 1-877-444-6777 or visit the Website at www.recreation.gov and make your reservations in advance. Remember, reservations may be made up to 240 days in advance.

For more information or a map of the Clearwater Lake Project, write the Corps at RR 3 Box 3559-D, Piedmont, MO 63957, call 573-223-7777 or visit the lake's web site at http://www.swl.usace.army.mil/Missions/Recreation/Lakes/ClearwaterLake.aspx, follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/littlerockusace, and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/usacelittlerock.

Page last updated Wed January 9th, 2013 at 00:00