|Today there are many different pursuits that can be undertaken on water, often by people with limited experience. Under appropriate supervision most water sports are perfectly safe, although the combination of weather, unpredictable water, and inexperience can lead to difficulties. The biggest danger from the water is drowning. There are simple measures that can help prevent this situation, such as wearing a personal flotation device or having rescue equipment to hand.
IN THE WATER ALONE
Should an accident occur and you find yourself in a situation where you may be in water for some time, there are some simple but effective ways of staying as warm as possible.
Cover your head with a hat or hood—remember that one-third of your body heat is lost through your head
Blasts on a whistle, or the release of flares, will alert others to your situation
Bring your knees up to your chest and wrap your arms around them, making yourself into a ball. This exposes less skin area to the water, which slows down the cooling process and buys you valuable time.
Falling into cold water can almost literally take your breath away. This is known as cold shock. The body’s response to this sudden immersion in cold water causes the breathing and heart rate soar. Although this is normally not a problem, when the water is less than 59ºF, sudden immersion can cause the heart to beat rates of 150-180 beats per minute and the breathing rate to rise to 60-90 breaths per minute. This may completely incapacitate a young fit person, and in a less fit or older person cause hear attack or stroke.When safely out of the water, treat the victim for hypothermia and call 911. Monitor and maintain the airway and be prepared to resuscitate the victim if necessary.
IN THE WATER AS A GROUP
If there is more than one person in the water then there are additional steps.
Ensure that everyone’s head is covered and do not let anyone fall asleep
If you have children with you, place them in the middle of the group and huddle up as close as possible, bringing your knees up to your chest
Inflate your personal flotation device, and call everyone together in a group
Stay calm and take turns calling for help
PREPARING FOR ACTIVITY WHERE IMMERSION IN COLD WATER IS A POSSIBILITY
Always undertake water sports under appropriate supervision and consider the many sources of information about the conditions of the water that you are visiting, such as the coastguard, beach offices, sailing and diving clubs, and local water-sports shops.
The water temperature of the coastal waters around the US can be as cold as 40ºF or as warm as 80ºF, making even the warmest ocean temperature (98.6ºF). Water conducts heat approximately 25 times faster than air, meaning that heat will be lost rapidly from the body. Hypothermia is therefore a big risk following immersion in cold water, particularly if you are not wearing appropriate clothing. If you know that there is a risk that you will be immersed in water for some time, always wear proper protective clothing such as nylon underwear, a thick layer of fleece, a dry suit, and a head covering.