Dying to cool off in the warm weather?

After months of feeling cold and looking pale, many millions of us Brits will be champing at the bit to get out and about during the first spell of decent weather.

Though the mercury has recently raced its way up the old thermometer, we’d do well to remember that water temperature is still lagging a good way behind. As such, those refreshing-looking rivers and lakes are still going to be pretty b****y cold during the bank holiday season.

So much so that attempts at “cooling off” in the blazing sun might literally take your breath away – and land you in all sorts of difficulties.

And that’s not just me being a scaremongering spoilsport. Look at the stats.

Accidental drownings peak dramatically during spells of warm weather, particularly when clement conditions coincide with weekends or school holidays.

Inland waters, such as rivers, lakes, lochs, canals and reservoirs, are the most common locations for accidental drowning.

In fact, figures from the National Water Safety Forum show that in 2009, 405 people died from accidents or natural causes in water across the UK, and, of these, more than half (213) died as a result of incidents in inland waters.

Having said that, RoSPA’s mantra isn’t “thou shalt not” but rather, “thou might want to heed some advice to make an informed decision”.

You can’t beat being out and about during nice weather. So here’s what we say to anyone who’s listening:

  • Swimming at properly-supervised sites, such as beaches, lidos or swimming pools, is best, although RoSPA appreciates that not everyone can go to these locations
  • If you choose to go to an unsupervised site, think through the hazards first and ensure you know what to do if something goes wrong
  • Among the hazards to consider are that during this warm weather, water will be a lot colder than you are expecting so be careful if you jump in or go for a swim to cool off. Also, there may be strong currents and underwater debris that you cannot see from the bank
  • Consider how you are going to get out of the water once you are in it
  • Be honest about your swimming ability
  • Remember that alcohol and swimming never mix
  • Parents and carers: discuss the hazards with your children and remind them that children should never swim alone at unsupervised locations.

See RoSPA’s Water Safety for Children and Young People factsheet for more top safety tips – including advice about rescuing someone who gets into difficulty.

Michael Corley

RoSPA’s Campaigns Manager

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