LSCBLocal Safeguarding Children Board Northamptonshire

Cold water shock can kill swimmers

As the weather warms up, Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service are urging both children and adults not to risk their lives by swimming in lakes, canals and rivers, where the water can still be very cold.

Even on a hot day, Cold Water Shock can affect anyone swimming in open water and causes many fatalities every year. Cold Water Shock, or Body Shock, is a physical response that affects your breathing, reduces your muscle ability and can even lead to a heart attack.

The cold water causes the blood vessels in the skin to close up, meaning the heart has to work harder. Your breathing rate will increase dramatically (up to 10 times faster) and there may also be a “gasp” response which can cause you to breathe in water. All of this can contribute to a feeling of panic.

After a while the body will regain control, but it may be too late by then. Cold Water Shock is known to have negative impacts on victims’ chances of survival, even if they are rescued from the water.

Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service brigade manager Dawn Whittaker, who is also CFOA’s National Water Safety Lead, said:

Whilst reservoirs, lakes, rivers and other inland waters may look safe and inviting, particularly on a warm day, there are also hidden dangers below the surface that could make you ill, hurt you and – at worst – could kill you.

We do not want to stop people enjoying water, but we do want to ensure that people of all ages are more aware of the risks that can be presented in and beside open water.

For more information visit the CFOA website

Last updated: 17 April 2015

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