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Cold Water Shock - What Is It and How To Avoid It

Cold water is any water below 15°C. Entering into cold water can have a serious effect on your body, so it is important to be aware of Cold Water Shock.


The average sea temperature is 12°C and rivers are usually colder, so this applies for most of the year in the U.K.


What happens?

- skin blood vessels close, blood flow resistance increases

- the heart has to work harder so blood pressure and heart rate increases

- sudden skin cooling causes involuntary gasps for breath

- movement can be seriously affected 

- breathing rates can increase dramatically and get out of control 

- you might panic and inhale water into your lungs


cold water shock man in the river
cold water shock man in the river

What are the dangers?


- it can happen quickly and lead to drowning unless medical care received immediately


- Cold water shock can cause heart attacks even in the young and healthy


How to avoid or deal with cold water shock

If you suddenly experience cold water:

- don’t try to swim immediately, wait 1 minute for cold water effects to pass

- relax and float on your back 

- keep calm, call for help or swim to shore when you are able to

- check water conditions before the activity 

- wear a wetsuit and lifejacket



Beezra Activities staff are qualified and experienced in all water-based activities, and provide a comprehensive safety briefing before every session. Book your adventure with us for a safe and exciting day out.

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