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Seafarers’ Health Tips – How to manage a crew member suffering from hypothermia


Ship crew has a higher chance of overcoming hypothermia with proper training and precaution

Seafarers are prone to health risks at sea. Apart from heat-related conditions under scorching weathers, extremely cold environments can also subject the crew to hypothermia. It is a dangerous condition which the body temperature drops to below 35°C (95°F). Freezing working environment accompanied with risks of falling overboard heighten seafarers’ exposure to hypothermia on the job.

Causes of hypothermia and managing it
Sophia Bullard, crew health director of UK P&I Club expressed that hypothermia is a challenging issue with serious impact on seafarers. She noted the nature of seafarers’ vocation often exposes ship crew to hypothermic elements and sub-zero conditions. This can cause the body to lose heat quicker than it can generate. With core temperature descending below 35°C, contracting hypothermia is extremely likely.

“Symptoms of hypothermia are shivering, exhaustion, confusion, memory loss, slurred speech, and trembling hands. However, these symptoms can also occur with a huge range of other conditions, so it is important to assess the environmental factors. These include the duration which the person has been exposed to cold temperatures or if they have been involved in an accident,” she highlighted.

The main causes of hypothermia are wearing wet or inappropriate clothing for the environment, consuming alcohol or drugs that induce quick cooling of blood, as well as major trauma. Bullard advises the first step is to begin assessment and treatment if a crew member displays symptoms of contracting hypothermia. However, if the person is conscious, remove any wet clothing and wrap them in a blanket, sleeping bag or something similar.

It is recommended that the assisting crew covers victim’s head excluding the face to allow breathing, followed by giving a warm drink. Bullard concluded, “If the individual is unconscious, assess their breathing. If it is undetectable, administer CPR and continue the rewarming process. In some cases, hypothermic victims who are rewarmed can be successfully resuscitated.”



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