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brave the waves

Planning on a Christmas day swim? Here's how to stay safe

Irish Water Safety is warning that cold water immersion and hypothermia can overwhelm even the fittest of swimmers.

santa-swim Sasko Lazarov Sasko Lazarov

WHETHER YOU’RE DOING it for charity or as part of your family’s traditional routine, there’s a number of things you should know if you’re planning on going for a swim this Christmas Day.

It used to be the preserve of just the hardy regulars but the popularity of  25 December swims has boomed in recent years.

With thousands of people across the country set to take the plunge tomorrow Irish Water Safety is urging people not to take any chances in the water.

The water safety charity has warned that cold water immersion and hypothermia can overwhelm even the fittest of swimmers.

swim-4 /Photocall Ireland /Photocall Ireland

The temperature of water at this time of year is approximately 11° Celsius at sea and 5° Celsius in fresh water.

Muscles cool down much faster than during a summer swim because of these low temperatures. This can cause people to experience increased heart rate, dizziness, cramp and panic.

Because of this swimmers should “Get In, Get Out and Warm Up” to avoid extended periods of exposure.

swim-2 Eamonn Farrell Eamonn Farrell

People are also being urged to avoid alcohol before swimming as it impairs judgment and increases the risk of cold water immersion and hypothermia.

Irish Water Safety said it is particularly concerned that people taking part in sponsored holiday swims may take chances beyond what is acceptably safe.

It issued a series of tips for those taking part in the charity endeavors:

  • Before entering the water throw some water down the back of your neck to allow your body prepare for cold water immersion.
  • Take great care walking down slipways, jetties, piers and over rocks as they may be slippery and cause you to fall.
  • Ensure that you have safe access and egress with appropriate shallow shelving, steps or ladders. Less agile people should be mindful that steps leading into the water might be dangerous due to the possible growth of algae.
  • Organisers should ensure that slipways or steps have been cleaned of slime, weed and algae.
  • If the seas are rough and weather deteriorates, wait for a more suitable day to support your charity commitment.

swim-3 Sasko Lazarov Sasko Lazarov

It also said that organisers should provide comprehensive details of each event to the Irish Coast Guard and local Gardaí and they should ensure that they have lifeguards for the event and adequate safety cover.

The charity urged people to make a New Year’s resolution to learn swimming and lifesaving skills and to always wear a lifejacket on water.

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