Cold Water Drowning Prevention
Summer is here! She arrived quickly, with record breaking heat. And if you’re one who puts clout in the Farmer’s Almanac, you’ll know she is predicted to stick around with warmer, drier temperatures than normal. You might be thinking, “Bring it on!”. After all, the light-filled summer months in the Pacific Northwest are what makes the 9-months of gloom worthwhile. But there is a darker side to Summer that we need to address. This is serious, so listen up.
Air temperatures may be sweltering, but our lakes are still dangerously cold. The week before summer officially began, five people drowned in our regional lakes. None were wearing life jackets. And all were preventable.
Sudden immersion in cold water can cause a cold shock response. Within seconds, you may lose muscular control of your limbs. Within 1-3 minutes, you may experience involuntary gasping, panic, and hyperventilating. Your heart rate increases, your blood pressure rises, and you may start to experience cognitive impairment. The risk of inhaling water and experiencing a drowning emergency is significantly increased with uncontrolled rapid breathing and loss of body heat.
The surface water temperature of Lake Washington in early July is around 60 degrees. Cold shock response can occur in water as warm as 70 degrees. It can affect all people, regardless of swimming ability.
If you recreate on or near water, there is one simple thing you can do to prevent a drowning emergency; wear a life jacket.