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How fast can you become hypothermic after falling into cold water?

| Mar 23, 2021 | admiralty & maritime law

Those who work on ships or on the docks have to consider the possibility of falling into cold water. The cold itself can be deadly.

If you’re not rescued quickly, how fast will you become hypothermic? 

Hypothermia is not the first concern

Though most people believe it only takes five minutes, the truth is much more complicated. Experts claim that it usually takes more than 10 minutes for hypothermia to set in, but you have other issues to worry about.

For instance, cold shock response is when your body makes an uncontrolled response — gasping, flailing, etc — when it first enters that cold water. Some people breathe in water and are at risk of drowning. Others have heart attacks. Some estimates that look at fatalities indicate that about 1 out of every 5 people will pass away in the first 120 seconds, long before they become hypothermic. 

The next step is cold incapacitation. Trying to stay warm, your body limits movement. Many of those who neglect to wear lifejackets say that they are good swimmers, so it seems unneeded. That may be true in warm water, but cold water can sap their energy and make it so they can’t swim for nearly as long as they think. 

Have you suffered injuries or lost a loved one?

If you have lost a loved one who fell into dangerously cold water, you must know what options you have to seek compensation. The same is true if you survived the immersion but ended up with serious injuries that may even be life-altering. Working on the water is dangerous, but you do have options when needed.