WATER SAFETY ADVICE
Danger 1: Cold Water Shock
Even on a warm day, the temperature of the water in a reservoir, quarry or lake can remain very cold. When you jump into a body of water you experience a cold-shock response. This is what happens: You gasp for air – meaning that you could breathe in water; You hyperventilate – this over-breathing can make you light-headed and, as your brain is deprived of oxygen, you may become disoriented; Your body’s Cold Shock Response, which speeds up the heart rate, may conflict with the Diving Response, which does the opposite, causing your heart to go into abnormal rhythms which can cause sudden death ; Your muscles will become weaker – your muscle ability can drop by as much as 25% – so you may not be able to keep yourself afloat or pull yourself out; Your body will shiver, which will affect your coordination and your swimming ability.
Danger 2: Currents
Moving water, such as rivers, may look calm but may have strong currents below the surface. Even reservoirs can have currents, caused by working machinery. Whether you’re a strong swimmer or not, currents can carry you into danger – trapping you against underwater obstructions or in weeds; pulling you away from where you can get out of the water; or dragging you further than you’re able to swim back.
Danger 3: Sickness
Open water can be polluted. Things that might make you ill include: Rat urine – can cause an illness called Weil’s Disease. Weil’s disease can initially cause flu-like symptoms between 7 and 26 days after you swim and, if untreated, the secondary stage can cause death; Cryptosporidium – a parasite that gives you bad stomach cramps and diarrhoea (the runs!); Trachoma – an eye infection that can lead to blindness; Whipworm – worm eggs that hatch inside the body after being swallowed; Toxic algae – which can cause skin rashes and stomach upsets.
Danger 4: What lies beneath
From out of the water, or above the water, you may not be able to see what’s under the water. That could be anything from large rocks to machinery; from shopping trolleys to dead branches, and even fish hooks or broken fishing line, all of which could injure you.