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Thread: Cold water swimming risks

  1. #1
    Very Active Member ddl's Avatar
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    Aug 2007

    Cold water swimming risks

    Just saw an article about the risks of cold water swimming (pasted below). Notice the survival rates in cold water...

    Water Health Risks in Swimming and Their Possible Consequences

    Added: 12/08/2005
    Sure that ocean, lake or pond looks inviting, but it's only as safe as YOU make it. Water health risks are numerous and in spite the fact that swimming is considered to be a very safe sport, all possible measures of precaution must be taken to avoid any health hazards. Thermal shock (cold shock), swimming failure, hypothermia, post rescue collapse and water bacteria risk can be lethal. Common sense and the following important information will help ensure that your next dip in the water is a safe and enjoyable one.

    Most water health risks are associated with the open water swimming. And the most lethal of them is swimming in the cold water, which is totally different from swimming in warm water. Research show -- and water accidents statistics bear this out -- that sudden immersion in very cold water (below 15 degrees C) is very dangerous and may lead to thermal shock and hypothermia, and it should be avoided as much as possible. The severity of the effects of cold shock is directly proportional to the water temperature peaking between 10 to 15 degrees C.
    Cold water cools down the body 25 times faster than cold air does. Any physical activity like swimming or struggling for survival in the water only increases the body's heat loss. Survival time is reduced to minutes. Strong swimmers die before swimming 100 meters in cold water. If water temperature is less than 5 degrees C, victims die before swimming as much as 30 meters.
    Muscle rigidity and dangerous loss of manual dexterity, physical weakness occurs at body temperature about 35 degrees C. Mental ability also deteriorates at this point. Unconsciousness occurs when the body's core temperature falls below 30 degrees C. If drowning doesn't happen first, a person dies at the body's core temperature of about 27 degrees C.

    There are four types of cold water health risks in which a swimmer may die:
    1. Cold shock (3 to 5 minutes) - fast immersion in cold water can cause death.
    2. Swimming failure (up to 30 minutes) - inability to swim.
    3. Hypothermia (above 30 minutes) - decreased body temperature.
    4. Post rescue collapse (on or soon after rescue).

    For those people subject to potential heart conduction defect (elderly and middle-aged tourists), immersion in cold water dangerously increases the chance of fatal cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heart beat).
    Other water health risks are stipulated by biological reasons.
    Illnesses caused by poor water quality include stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting and sore throat. The elderly, children and people with weakened immune systems have a greater risk of getting ill when swimming in waters that harbor natural or man-made contaminants. Microscopic germs are found in all natural waterways, and these germs can pose serious health risks.
    Microorganisms can enter the body through natural apertures like mouth, nose and ears, as well as through open cuts and wounds. Therefore, swallowing the water and immersing one's head increase biological water health risks. Waterways used for recreational purposes can never be risk-free, but there are several ways as how to reduce water bacteria risk. These precautions include:
    Do not swim near water dumping and dirty areas.
    Do not swim in areas marked with warnings against swimming.
    Avoid swimming during and after heavy rains.
    Avoid swallowing the water. Keep your head above water when swimming.
    Avoid swimming with open cuts or wounds.
    Shower right after swimming.
    Common sense is the best practice in avoiding water health risks. Athletes must not share water bottles, towels, or swim suits; and all of these items must be washed regularly. And don't forget to wash yourself while you're at it. After exiting from a lake, pool or ocean it's always a god idea to take a shower and scrub yourself down. That way any germs on your body go right down the drain!
    Last edited by ddl; March 16th, 2009 at 12:50 AM.

  2. #2
    Very Active Member ViveBene's Avatar
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    Sep 2007

    Re: Cold water swimming risks

    On a site called Search Your Love!

    (Hope you got some!)

    15 deg C is 59 deg F. I swam all last September and October in water in the 50s. I don't plan to die soon.
    Before I knew better, I swam in water in the 40s. (I was skinnier, too.)
    Somebody was swimming (sans wetsuit) in Lake Michigan last wkend, along with relic floating icebergs. Water temp 36 deg F, air nice and toasty. An improvement over the Jan. 1 plunge, when air temp was 40 deg colder.
    People in more northerly climes simply swim colder. I could not match the cold water endurance of northern Russians or Swedes, or Alaskans or Canadians.

  3. #3
    Very Active Member ddl's Avatar
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    Aug 2007

    Re: Cold water swimming risks

    Ha! I didn't even notice what web site it was! I was actually searching for cold water swimming health issues, first found a story about a capital hill man swimming in cold water, then this one, thought I would share. Only now, after seeing your post, have I realized it's a dating web site! I wonder why such an article appears there.

    I think practicing cold water swimming is helpful for emergency situations, just don't swim in icy water, and provided one has no serious health conditions.

  4. #4
    Very Active Member Chicken of the Sea's Avatar
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    Apr 2008
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    Re: Cold water swimming risks

    when do you start swimming in the lake again? I plan to start as soon as it hits 50+.
    It was quite capable in the water, perhaps a little on the slow side, but it wasn't impressed by my appearance.

  5. #5
    Very Active Member Slowswim's Avatar
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    Feb 2007
    Heidelberg Germany

    Re: Cold water swimming risks

    The pool here is 55 degrees in the morning and low 60's in the afternoon. I hate cold water (basically just never got accustomed to it) so I'm wait a couple of weeks for whatever time of day get the water in to the 70's.

    By July, the water will get up to 110+ so I'll be swimming either 6am or midnight whichever gets the water temp down.
    I keep telling my coaches, "I am a sprinter" and "they keep saying you swim short races, but that is not the same thing." - Some Girl

  6. #6
    Very Active Member
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    Apr 2008
    San Luis Obispo, CA

    Re: Cold water swimming risks

    I guess that is why they invented temperature controlled pools - keep it at a nice 78 F. Also chlorine!

  7. #7
    Very Active Member chaos's Avatar
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    Jan 2006
    hudson valley, ny
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    Re: Cold water swimming risks

    the more people you can scare away from swimming in open water; the more peaceful the experience will be for the rest of us.

    good jarb!

    or go to the open water section and read about how dedicated swimmers train and prepare themselves for this activity.

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