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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Winter is a good time to enjoy outdoor sports, but cold can be a danger

Many folks can’t wait till spring, however, winter is a good time to enjoy the outdoors. It’s a good time for fishing, hunting, hiking, looking for shed deer antlers as well as other activities.
 Preparation, equipment, including clothing, and common sense are key to safety and having a good cold weather outdoor experience. 
And after last year’s cold, difficult winter, the almanac folks and other long-range weather forecasters and calling for another colder 2014-15 December through March.
Dressing with clothing in layers is important for outdoor activities. You can always take layers off, if you become too warm while hiking or when involved in other outdoor recreation. It also is important to stay dry.
Jeff Manning with Heatmax, the makers of Hothands warms, says the most important thing in making a winter outing enjoyable is to plan ahead.
According to Manning, many people head out without checking the weather forecast and end up underdressed for conditions. That can happen in spring and fall as well. I learned the hard way.
Anyone who spends time outdoors should know about hypothermia, its symptoms and what to do about it. It’s the No. 1 killer of outdoor enthusiasts.
Knowing the symptoms of hypothermia and how to prevent it, could save your life or the life of someone else.
There are three stages of hypothermia. The first appears as uncontrolled shivering, mental sluggishness, and uncoordinated, and slurred speech.  The second or moderate stage includes possible irrational behavior, violent shivering, slurred speech and loss of motor functions like tying shoe laces.
As it progresses into the severe stages, shivering may stop, muscle rigidity begins, breathing, pulse and blood pressure slow and a comatose state soon follows.
The treatment differs somewhat for each level, but re-warming the person is critical. Ironically, the majority of cases of hypothermia occur at temperatures of 30 to 50-degrees, not bitter cold weather.
I recall once making a foolish mistake by not dressing properly on a late spring fishing trip in Canada with my friend, Ted Legge. The temperature probably was near 70 degrees, but quickly dropped to the 50’s. A sunny sky turned to a cold rain. I was soaked while fishing in a boat mid-lake. I quickly went into early hypothermia. I had difficulty buttoning my shirt or doing much of anything.
Once I made it to shore and started hiking back to the cabin, I was OK. I learned a lesson.
To help prevent hypothermia, never drink alcoholic beverages when out in the cold. Alcohol slows circulation. 
Dress in loosely layered clothing made of synthetic materials to help trap body heat.
If your clothing becomes wet, get to a sheltered area, out of the wind. Remove wet clothing and replace it with dry items or cover up with a dry blanket.
Pay special attention to your hands, feet and head, keeping these areas covered at all times. Avoid wrapping clothing too tightly around limbs as this can inhibit your blood flow. Never warm up too quickly. While the temptation is to plunge into a steaming bath, bringing your body temperature up slowly is best.
In severe cold, covering exposed skin especially in windy conditions is the best way to safeguard against another villain--frost bite. Skin protections can help to some degree but covering up your nose, fingers and toes is the biggest step in keeping frostbite away.
When enjoying the outdoors, always let someone know where you will be and when you expect to return. It also is a good idea to have a partner.
In addition, keeping an eye on your environment and being prepared for an emergency will help keep you safe during winter outings.  

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