Warm weather is great for boating, but hyperthermia, when the body’s temperature rises above the normal level of 98.6 F, can pose a life-threatening risk. Hyperthermia most commonly affects people over 50; those taking diuretics, sedatives, tranquilizers, and some heart and
blood-pressure medications; people who are over- or underweight or have a
condition that causes dehydration. The condition can cause several illnesses:
HEAT SYNCOPE is sudden dizziness and faintness. It can be treated by drinking
water, putting your legs up, and resting in a cool place.
HEAT CRAMPS happen when the muscles in your stomach, arms, or legs tighten
due to hard work or exercise. Your body temperature usually remains normal, but your
skin may feel moist and cold. You should rest in a cool place and hydrate.
HEAT EDEMA is swelling in your ankles and feet. Putting your legs up, along with
rest and hydration, will usually help, but if this doesn’t, then check with your doctor.
HEAT EXHAUSTION is your body telling you that it can no longer keep cool. Signs
are thirst, weakness, nausea, poor coordination, excessive sweating, and a racing pulse.
This can be a precursor to heat stroke. Rest in a cool place and hydrate.
HEAT STROKE is a medical emergency and can be life-threatening. Seek medical
Hyperthermia: Keep Your Cool
Overheating yourself in the midday sun is easy to do. But the results can be very serious
Ways to minimize
■ Limit your consumption of alcohol
and/or caffeine, which are dehydrating.
■ Invest in a bimini or structure on
your boat to provide shade.
■ If you’re working in the boatyard or
doing maintenance on your boat, take
regular breaks to hydrate and rest in
the shade or in an air-conditioned
■ Freeze wet towels or wash rags overnight and keep them in your cooler. Use
them to wipe down when you’re feeling
■ Wear loose, light-colored, lightweight
clothing. Wear a broad-brimmed hat, or
a hat with flaps that cover your neck.
■ Take a midday break from the sun.
■ Keep a spray bottle of freshwater
handy, and spritz often. If you’re on the
water with your kids, make a game of
staying cool with water pistols and
■ Circulate the air inside your cabin
with fans or a wind scoop.
■ Pay close attention to your body.
Immediately call 911 or the Coast Guard
if you or someone else is experiencing
the symptoms of heat stroke. — M.N.
Practical Boater HEALTHY BOATING
By Melanie Neale
attention immediately if you experience
fainting, a body temperature of more
than 104 F, behavior changes (confusion,
anger, staggering), dry or flushed skin, or
if you stop sweating at all. People suffering from heat stroke may have a strong
rapid pulse or a slow weak one. Seek
Melanie Neale grew up on her family’s
47-footer cruising up and down the East
Coast and in the Bahamas. Now living
in St. Augustine, Melanie is the Florida
regional editor for BoatU.S. Magazine