Cold Water Shock

With a predicted spike in temperatures, we are urging people not to enter into open water to cool off.

It may be tempting to dive into one of our popular swimming spots but swimming in these open waters has many risks attached.

The temperature of the water is still cold enough to put a person into cold water shock even in the height of summer.

Cold-water shock is the first stage of sudden immersion into water, usually with a temperature below 15C, and can instantly affect breathing and movement - even among strong and confident swimmers.

Affects of cold water shock

At a water temperature below 15°C, cold water shock will:

  • cause you to inhale as you go under the water, due to an involuntary gasping reflex, and drown without coming back to the surface.

  • drastically reduce your ability to hold your breath underwater. 

  • induce vertigo as your ears are exposed to cold water, resulting in failure to differentiate between up and down.

Float To Live

If you are tempted to go in to the water during the hot spell, please remember these vital tips:- 

  • Check conditions - including water temperature - before heading to the coast. Visit for full surf reports in the UK and Ireland.

  • Wear a wetsuit of appropriate thickness for the amount of time you plan to spend in the water and the type of activity you're doing, if entering

  • Do NOT dive in to the water, try and enter the water gradually.

  • If you start to feel the effects of cold water shock, fight your instinct to swim, keep calm, simply lie back and FLOAT. You will find after approximately 90 seconds the shock will pass and you can swim to safety. 

  • If you see someone in trouble in the water, call 999 immediately.

For More Information

Respect the water - floating facts (opens in new window)

Swimming Pool Safety

Diving Safety

Reservoir Safety

Last updated: Wednesday 24 June 2020