Cold Water Shock

Cold Water Shock

Cold water shock is a serious and dangerous condition caused by entering water that is 15 degrees celsius or colder. It affects your breathing and movement, often triggering involuntary gasps for breath due to the cold temperature, which causes panic and increases your chances of inhaling water.

Whether you plan to be in the water or you fall in unexpectedly, cold water shock is often underestimated - especially when the weather is warm. Even in the summer, the seas and rivers in the UK are on average just 12 degrees celsius! It impacts even the strongest of swimmers and significantly increases the risk of drowning.

Cold water shock can even cause heart attacks due to the increased blood flow resistance in response to the cold water, which in turn triggers an elevated heart rate and an increase in blood pressure. Cold water shock does not discriminate - even those who would classify themselves as young and/or healthy can suffer the same consequences of cold water shock as others.

The RNLI have advice on what to do when dealing with cold water shock.

1. The effects of cold water shock, such as initial panic and hyperventilation, often pass quickly. Take a moment to calm yourself as much as you can. Resisting the urge to panic will help you gather your thoughts and increase your chances of survival.

2. Remember 'Float to Live'.

3. Try to call for help or swim to safety if you are able to.


18th October 2023

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