Cold water shock

What is Cold Water Shock

Cold water shock (CWS) is an involuntary response by the body being suddenly or unexpectedly immersed into water which has a temperature of less than 15 °C.

Your body’s reaction to CWS will affect your capability to move and may seriously affect your breathing and heart.

Did you know? The average temperature of the sea in UK and Ireland is around 12 °C

What are the symptoms?

After falling into cold water blood vessels in your skin will close and the output from your heart will rise causing your blood pressure to increase; this will put your heart under strain and could cause a heart attack.

The sudden cooling of the skin can also make you gasp involuntarily and increase your breathing rate which can cause you to inhale water panic and drown.

What can you do?

If you unintentionally fall into the water Don’t try to swim straight away.

Fight your instinct to swim hard or thrash about. Try to remain calm, relax, turn onto your back and adopt the float position.

Once floating, and the initial effects of Cold Water Shock have passed (about 90 seconds) call for help and look around for anything which you can use to float or get out of the water.

If you are intentionally in the water for an activity:

Check the weather and conditions before entering the water

Wear a wetsuit or drysuit and a personal floatation device appropriate to the activity you wish to carry out.