RNLI reminds festive swimmers about cold water shock

For thousands up and down the coast, a festive dip in the sea is part of a Christmas tradition.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 22 December, 2017, 07:46
Boxing Day Dip at Spittal, 2016 Picture by Jane Coltman

RNLI lifeboat stations, community groups and charities have organised dips from their local beaches.

These include Spittal on Boxing Day at 11am when dozens of people are expected to take the plunge.

Nick Ayres, RNLI Community Safety Partner, said: “Many brave swimmers are planning to take the plunge with their families and friends over the holidays.

“As the charity that saves lives at sea, we are here to make people aware of what do to if they or their fellow swimmers get into trouble.

“Of course we want people to enjoy the water, but also remember it is winter when the sea is at its coldest!

“Before going in, we urge people to remember the risks of cold water shock and what to do if it happens to them. The simple act of floating could save your life.”

Sign up to our daily newsletter

· If you run straight into cold water you are more likely to suffer from cold water shock. The best way to avoid this is to wear a wetsuit. If this isn’t possible, walk into the sea slowly and stay shallow this will allow your body time to acclimatise gradually.

· Cold water shock is a physiological response, which causes uncontrollable gasping. This increases the risk of you swallowing water and puts a strain on your heart- in extreme cases it can cause cardiac arrest. If you feel you this happening to you, fight your instinct to thrash around and swim hard, instead just lie back and float. The initial shock will pass within 60–90 seconds, and when you have regained control of your breathing, you can then try swimming to safety or calling for help. This skill will give you a far better chance of staying alive.

· If you see someone else in trouble in the water, fight the instinct to go in yourself. Call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.

The RNLI’s national drowning prevention campaign, Respect the Water, aims to raise awareness of key hazards like cold water shock, and lifesaving skills like floating, to support the charity’s drive to halve the number of accidental coastal deaths by 2024. Find out more about how to float and cold water shock by visiting www.RespectTheWater.com

Nick added: “There are many local dips taking place at the coast over Christmas. We encourage those who plan on taking part to join a scheduled event, as they will be in good company with others swimmers, as well as safety staff.”