There are around 1,500 deaths by drowning in the UK each year, 25% of them in the sea and the remainder in inland waterways including rivers, lakes and reservoirs.Most of the casualties are children and young people (source: University of Dundee).
The main cause of accidental deaths in waterways is bathers being affected by some of the dangers listed below:
Alcohol and bathing
Alcohol causes loss of coordination and slows reaction times, as well as reducing the body’s core temperature and increasing the susceptibility to cold. Eating before bathing should also be avoided as it increases the risk of muscle cramps.
Even during warm weather, temperatures in open waters are dangerously low. This can affect even strong swimmers, causing loss of strength and muscle coordination. Prolonged exposure to cold can cause hypothermia, inducing mental confusion and irrational behaviour.
Open water used by animals can carry diseases such as Leptospirosis (Weil’s disease), which has flu-like symptoms and can be fatal.
Murky or fast-flowing water can conceal hazards such as rocks or discarded rubbish. Jumping in can be deadly.
Underwater plants can wrap around bathers, leading to breathing difficulties and panic.
Just 15cm of fast flowing water can knock an adult off their feet. Deeper water with fast currents is extremely hazardous.
Bathers are advised to:
- Only use venues designed for open-air bathing.
- Pay attention to all warning signs.
If you see someone in difficulty:
- Shout for help and dial 999 and ask for the Fire Service at inland water sites or the Coast Guard if you're at the beach.
- Reach with a long stick, a scarf, clothes or anything else. Crouch or lie down to avoid being pulled in.
- Throw, A rope is best - you can then pull in the person. Otherwise throw something that will float - a ball, a plastic bottle or a lifebuoy.
- Do not jump in to try to save them.