Prevention is better than cure, but a knowledge of the cure is also essential. What you do about it depends on the circumstances; clearly the possible actions are very different for the river paddler compared to the group on an exposed sea open crossing.

To prevent it happening

  • plan the trip carefully

  • ensure that everyone on the trip is capable of the trip’s demands

  • take spare clothing

  • be adequately clothed before you all begin

  • ensure that you have eaten sufficient before beginning the journey

  • have spare hot drinks and high energy food to consume on the way

  • keep the pace at that for the slowest

  • ensure that the group does not split up

  • keep a watchful eye on the less experienced

  • do not get wet unnecessarily

  • be competent at rescues

  • carry out rescues quickly and efficiently

  • if an incident occurs take charge, delegate and keep watch on the rest of the group.

How to Recognise It

Recognising the onset of hypothermia in kayaking is difficult because of the distance between paddlers. Nevertheless, if you are aware of the potential for the problem and how to recognise it you can take action before it becomes serious. As the condition develops there may be :

– shivering and cold, pale skin

– apathy, disorientation or irrational behaviour; occasionally belligerence

– lethargy or failing consciousness

– slow and shallow breathing

– a slow and weakening pulse

– in extreme cases there may be cardiac arrest.

What to Do About It

What you do depends on where you are when you recognise the condition. If you are on the water then your options are limited but there are still actions that can allay the severe onset of the condition until you can reach the shore.

– give the casualty a hot drink and high energy food if they are conscious give them more clothing

– if they are not capable of paddling then consider towing them having given them another paddler to raft up to

– if they are incapable of remaining upright in the kayak consider putting them in a survival bag on the deck of a kayak raft and towing to shore

On reaching the shore

If the casualty can be taken indoors:

– if you can get the casualty indoors then replace their wet clothing with warm and dry garments

– if they are conscious consider putting them into a warm bath

– put the casualty into bed and give hot drinks and high energy foods

– contact a doctor

If the casualty is outdoors

– then take them to a sheltered place

– give them extra clothing, lie them down on top of an insulating layer

– put them in a sleeping bag/survival blanket and/or a survival bag

– send for help

– if they are conscious give hot drinks and high energy foods