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Stay safe during fall boating trips

If you are a fisherman who likes to get in some fall fishing for salmon, brown trout or the other varieties available in Northern Illinois, you may not yet have dry-docked your boat for the season.

But fall water sports present some different hazards to sportsmen, and one danger is the threat of hypothermia from being suddenly immersed in cold water. Our bodies experience severe strains that can overtax the heart and cause cardiac arrest. Those lucky enough to have survived an accident in cold water describe immediately losing their breath upon contact with the water.

So what can sportsmen do if they fall into icy water? Disorientation is common due to the shock from the frigid water. Judgment becomes impaired quickly as the effects of hypothermia set in. As the human body's core temperature drops, hypothermia can cause unconsciousness within minutes.

The number one thing you can do to save your own life is to make sure that you are already wearing a properly fitting life jacket. Fingers numbed from cold will struggle to fasten straps, grasp the side of boats or hold onto a rescue line.

If you anticipate entering the water, hold your nose and close your mouth to avoid inhaling water. The first sign of hypothermia is shivering. In order to survive, you have to get out of the cold water, out of your wet clothes and warmed up. Massaging extremities can cause tissue damage.

The below tips will help keep autumn boaters safer on the water.

-- Keep your boat and all equipment in excellent condition.

-- Don't head out in your boat by yourself.

-- File a float plan with someone on land before you head out on the water.

-- Dress for the weather by wearing layers of clothes, warm boots and hats. Cotton is a poor cold weather insulator, but fabrics like pile, polypropylene and wool give warmth even after they are wet.

-- When the weather is still warm, learn how to right a small, capsized boat in the water.

-- Avoid panicking if you wind up in cold waters. Air that's trapped in your clothes can keep you buoyant.

If you suffered an adverse event while boating due to another person's negligence, it may be possible to recover compensation for damages and other losses.

Source: fishandboat.com, "Hazards on the water," accessed Sep. 29, 2016

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