Deaths from falling into cold water are a harsh reality and although not exclusive to winter, they are far more common. After only just 20-30 minutes, cognitive functions begin to seriously decline and your judgement becomes impaired. It then won’t be long before hypothermia sets in which can result in confusion and ultimately death. In cold water, body heat is lost 25 times faster than in cold air and that’s a terrifying statistic.
Those most at risk are of course those who spend a lot of time outdoors, on or near bodies of water. This includes fishers, boaters, and walkers. However, it only takes one quick incident for you to fall into water. Survival rates vary from person to person and can depend on swimming ability, body size, fat percentage, alcohol levels, clothing, and response to the cold.
We’re going to arm you with some of the dos and don’ts of falling into cold water so that you can increase your chances of survival:
- Wear a floatation device
- Keep your clothing in to help maintain a stable body temperature
- Try to get as much of your body out of the water – for every part of your body that is out of water, your body incrementally increases in temperature
- Mentally take control of the situation as soon as you’re aware you’re falling in – this will help you to relax when you’re in the water and stop shock from taking over
- If you can, prevent water by entering your nose by either blowing out or pinching it – water flooding the nose is often how drownings occur
- Turn your backs to any waves and try to avoid breathing in water
- If you are with somebody in the water, huddle together to conserve body heat
- If you are wearing a PFD, adopt a foetal position by crossing your arms over your chest and tucking your knees to your chest
- Keep as still as you can in order to preserve energy
- Don’t succumb to the initial urge to gasp as you might inhale water and reduces buoyancy
- Don’t just float if you feel there is a chance you can get to shore safely or there is no help coming for you
- Don’t wear cotton because it doesn’t help as an insulator and will weigh you down
- Don’t swim unless you can definitely climb out of the water – swimming will reduce your core body temperature