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cold water shock

RNLI and Coast Guard issue safety appeal for Christmas swimmers after busy year of callouts

Both organisations have seen an almost 20% increase in callouts this year.

THE RNLI AND Coast Guard have issued an appeal to all those taking part in traditional Christmas and New Year swims over the festive season.

The joint message is not to take any chances and to know your limits including how long to stay in the water.

The RNLI said it has seen an almost 20% increase in callouts this year, placing extra demand on both search and rescue providers.

Both organisations urge people to minimise the length of time they remain in water due to the risk of hypothermia as water temperature at this time of year are between 6 and 10°C.

Highlighting the risks of cold water shock, which is a danger for anyone entering water 15°C or below, RNLI Regional Lifesaving Lead Owen Medland said the organisations wish for everyone planning a trip to the coast or a festive swim is that they do so safely.

“We urge everyone to be extra cautious and understand the risks and know how to stay safe before they enter the cold water. Follow the right advice for your activity and always carry a means of calling for help,” said Medland.

Irish Coast Guard Operations Manager Micheál O’Toole added that it is important to distinguish between the traditional Christmas quick dip and longer swims: “Open water swimming at this time of the year is only for experienced participants and never ever swim alone.”

Safety tips from the Coast Guard and the RNLI for open water swimming are:

  • Always check the weather forecast and understand the local effects of wind, tides, and currents. (For weather and tides see here)
  • Never swim alone and if possible, have somebody ashore who is familiar with your plans and can observe your progress.
  • Only swim in sheltered areas with which you are familiar and swim parallel to the shore.
  • Stay within your depth – know your limits including how long to stay in the water
  • Ensure that you are visible from the shore. Wear a brightly coloured swim cap or use a tow float to increase your visibility in the water.
  • Wearing a wetsuit is advisable to help stay warm.
  • Acclimatise to cold water slowly to reduce the risk of cold-water shock.
  • Get warmed up afterwards. Wrap up well in extra layers of clothing
  • If in doubt, don’t go out.
  • Tell someone else where you’re going and when you’ll be back.

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