FAQ Level 3 Award for First Responders on Scene: Emergency First Responder (RQF) FROS® - Online Blended Part 1

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Cold water shock

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Cold Water Safety: Risks and Precautions

Understanding Cold Water

Definition: Cold water is any water temperature below 15 degrees Celsius.

UK Temperatures: UK and island water temperatures average just 12 degrees Celsius, with rivers like the Thames being even colder, even in summer.

Risk: Cold waters can render you helpless within seconds.

Effects of Cold Water

Cold Water Shock: Causes skin blood vessels to constrict, increasing blood flow resistance.

Increased Heart Rate: Cold water shock elevates heart rate, straining the heart and raising blood pressure.

Involuntary Gasping: Sudden skin cooling triggers an uncontrollable gasp for breath.

Panic Response: These reactions induce panic, heightening the risk of inhaling water into the lungs.

Drowning Risk: Just half a pint of seawater in the lungs can lead to drowning without immediate medical care.

Dealing with Cold Water Shock

Stay Calm: If unexpectedly in cold water, try to stay calm; initial shock subsides in under a minute.

Don't Swim Immediately: Avoid swimming right away; instead, relax or float on your back to catch your breath.

Hold onto Something: If possible, hold onto an object to help you stay afloat.

Call for Help: Keep calm and call for assistance or swim to safety if feasible.

Precautions for Cold Water Activities

Check Conditions: Prior to swimming, assess water and weather conditions at your destination.

Appropriate Attire: Wear a wetsuit suitable for the water temperature and activity duration.

Use a Flotation Device: Employ a flotation device to increase survival chances during initial shock.