Surely you love the heat of summer, the softness of warm air that caresses the skin.
As a sun lover, you can lounge for hours on the beach and finally enjoy those few annual moments of freedom.
We won’t blame you for fully enjoying your long-awaited vacation, but keep in mind that during the summer, accidents do not disappear.
Cold water shock is unfortunately the cause of many drownings that could have been easily avoided.
Knowing everything about these simple gestures that can prevent a potentially fatal accident is essential.
- 1 What is hydrocution due to cold water?
- 2 Vasovagal syncope
- 3 Can digestion lead to cold water shock?
- 4 How to prevent cold water shock?
- 5 Advice to avoid the risk of cold water shock?
- 6 Warning signs of hydrocution
- 7 The safety of private swimming pools
- 8 Enjoy your vacation!
What is hydrocution due to cold water?
We cannot explain this phenomenon without first looking at how our body regulates body temperature.
Human beings have the particularity of being homeothermic, their internal temperature must always be constant regardless of the external temperature and therefore their environment.
Our body needs to maintain a temperature of around 37.5°C (99.5°F) to ensure the normal functioning of all organs.
And to achieve this, the body will implement different strategies so that the temperature does not vary too much.
When it’s too hot, our body temperature tends to rise.
But the body reacts quickly by triggering what is called vasodilatation.
Thus, the cutaneous vessels dilate to diffuse more blood under the skin to evacuate heat.
At the same time, the heartbeat accelerates from overactivity, and the pulsation increases by an additional 10-15 beats per minute even at rest.
The result of this reaction is to push the heat outwards as much as possible.
Reaction to water
The best refreshment one can bring to the body is to immerse oneself in water.
But be aware that it cools 25 times faster in contact with water than in air.
The fact of diving into water colder than the body with haste triggers a new reaction.
When you enter the water too quickly while you are hot, the process of vasoconstriction is triggered.
Blood vessels contract suddenly, and their diameter decreases to achieve temperature regulation between the skin and the organs (heart, lungs, brain, kidneys).
Under this effect, the heart rate slows down, blood pressure drops and the brain has to deal with a sudden lack of oxygen.
Vagal discomfort sets in and you faint.
In itself, this discomfort is not very serious, but it becomes extremely dangerous when you are in the water.
Can digestion lead to cold water shock?
We all tend to think that digestion can cause cold water shock.
How many times have we heard the famous phrase: “wait two hours before swimming, you’re in full digestion”
Digestion indeed activates increased functioning of the organism, which, in turn, slightly increases body temperature and triggers vasodilation.
We can therefore think of the possibility of thermal shock if you bathe right after eating.
However, this fact is not scientifically proven.
The minimal impact of digestion has never been proven in cases of hydrocution.
An American study even reveals that only 1% of drownings occur after a meal, which is insignificant.
How to prevent cold water shock?
Do you feel reassured and now think that you can go swimming in peace after a meal?
You are wrong.
The risk of cold water shock is permanent.
You should be careful after a heavy meal.
You shouldn’t enter the water too hard when it’s too hot.
As for the digestion, two hours are insufficient for it to be completed!
You must follow the safety advice that invites you to wet your face, neck, and lower abdomen before entering the water.
This sends a message to the brain so that the process of regulating body temperature is triggered and the body is not surprised.
Advice to avoid the risk of cold water shock?
- it is useless to wait two hours after a meal before swimming
- it is still better to wait after a too heavy meal
- it is advisable to wet the neck, face, lower abdomen, and legs to alert the body to the change in temperature
- it is best not to expose yourself to the sun for too long before entering the water, especially during the hottest hours (from noon to 4 p.m.)
- it is reasonable not to enter the water directly from a dive
- it makes sense to enter the water gradually so that the body slowly acclimatizes
- avoid swimming in the water below 18°C (64.4°F) if you are an adult and below 20°C (68°F) for children
- do not swim alone or outside supervised areas
- be even more careful if you are over 40 and/or have a heart condition
Finally, remember that the risk of hydrocution is not only at the edge of a swimming pool or the sea in the middle of summer.
You can also be a victim of this by taking a simple cold shower or by chaining a shower that is too cold after a sauna.
The key to avoiding a sudden syncope that can cause a cardiocirculatory attack is to always avoid excessive temperature variations that shock the body.
Warning signs of hydrocution
As we have just seen, hydrocution is above all a vagal discomfort.
So you can recognize its symptoms very easily:
– sudden itching
– intense chills
– a brutal cramp
– impaired hearing or sight
– an immediate headache
– intense fatigue
– extreme skin pallor
If you happen to experience one or more of these symptoms upon entering the water, it is advisable to get out of it immediately.
The safety of private swimming pools
Around a swimming pool, it is essential to ensure the safety of your children and even older ones.
And it’s not just about the risks of cold water shock or too reckless diving.
You should know that 56% of drownings occur in private family swimming pools which, most often, are not equipped to guarantee maximum safety.
Also, consider installing an alarm camera like this one (#ad) to provide permanent remote monitoring.
This model is very practical as it can be placed wherever you want since it does not require electrical installation and allows you to intervene vocally and therefore to interact wherever you are.
Similarly for your pool to be up to standard, include a pool alarm system (#ad) to prevent accidental falls into the pool and a protective barrier (#ad) to prevent its access when no one is available for bather supervision.
It is essential to consider all possible means of prevention so as not to risk the accident which unfortunately remains too frequent due to negligence.
Enjoy your vacation!
You now have all the information you need to fully enjoy your vacation without the risk of an accident.
Drownings by hydrocution are still too common during the summer.
However, they could be avoided by simple warnings.
Our body is a sophisticated machine that doesn’t like to be bullied.
Treat your body with care, and respect its needs and limits to live the summer period serenely.