‘Inviting’ swims during heatwave can easily kill, Northamptonshire firefighters warn

Delapre Lake
Delapre Lake
  • Cold Water Shock causes the blood vessels in the skin the close up, meaning the heart has to work harder
  • There may also be a ‘gasp’ response, which can cause you to breathe in water
  • Cold Water Shock can decrease victims’ chances of survival, even if they are rescued from the water

Taking a dip in open water could see your breathing get 10 times faster in seconds then give you a heart attack, Northamptonshire fire service has warned.

County firefighters said a condition called Cold Water Shock, which numbs the muscles and can make it difficult to swim, can happen on the warmest of days if people swim in canals, rivers and lakes.

No swimming signs at Delapre Lake

No swimming signs at Delapre Lake

The instinctive physical response not only affects your breathing, but will reduce your muscles’ ability and can even lead to a heart attack.

The cold water causes the blood vessels in the skin the 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, the fire service warned, it may be too late by then.

We want to ensure that people of all ages are more aware of the risks that can be present in and beside open water.

Dawn Whittaker, brigade manager

Cold Water Shock is even known to have negative impacts on victims’ chances of survival, even if they are rescued from the water.

Ahead of this week’s forecast heatwave, brigade manager Dawn Whittaker of Northants Fire Service, who also leads water safety nationally, said: “While 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 present in and beside open water.”

Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service held a public water safety day at Stanwick Lakes last Friday to raise awareness of the campaign and will also be visiting schools to spread the safety message.

Safety messages will also be shared on the brigade’s Facebook and Twitter accounts and members of the public are being encouraged to support the campaign by sharing or retweeting the safety message.

To find out more about the campaign, visit: www.cfoa.org.uk/CFOADrowningPreventionWaterSafetyWeek