St John Ambulance urging Avon Descent competitors to guard against hypothermia


L-R: Melissa Rorke and Alex Maher from St John Ambulance prepare equipment for the Avon Descent. Photo: supplied
L-R: Melissa Rorke and Alex Maher from St John Ambulance prepare equipment for the Avon Descent. Photo: supplied

ST John Ambulance has urged competitors and volunteers involved in this weekend’s Avon Descent to be wary of hypothermia, with cold conditions forecast early Saturday and Sunday.

The two-day, 124km race begins in Northam on Saturday, and with a minimum of seven degrees predicted for that morning, people are being urged to take care.

Northam’s average minimum temperature last month was just 3.9°C.

The mercury in the Wheatbelt town reached zero or below six times in July, and the monthly temperature was well below long-term averages.

Symptoms of hypothermia include severe shivering, slurred speech and a slowed heart rate.

Hypothermia can set in when a person’s temperature falls below 35.0°C .

“Given it has been a particularly cold winter and competitors will be exposed to water, there is a risk of hypothermia setting in if people aren’t careful,” St John Event Health Services General Manager Phil Martin said.

“After each day’s racing competitors should immediately remove all wet clothing and if they’re feeling particularly cold, wrap themselves in a warm blanket, cover their head with a beanie and have a warm drink.

“Entrants in the Avon Descent are generally quite experienced with these conditions, but it always pays to be mindful of the risk of hypothermia because in extreme cases it can be fatal.”

And Mr Martin also warned competitors and spectators to take care on the difficult course.

“Strong flowing rivers can be deceptively powerful and often you can’t see submerged hazards,” he said.

“Similarly, river banks can be unstable which poses potential risks to spectators.

St John will have 18 medical personnel stationed at six locations along the race route.

A mobile response team will also be operating and anyone in need of medical assistance should visit a St John post.

In an emergency situation, contact triple 000.