Teach children about cold water shock, urges LGA

Children need to be taught about the dangers of cold water shock at school, the Local Government Association (LGA) has urged following figures that show the number of young people drowning accidentally in the UK rose by almost a quarter last year.

The LGA has issued a water safety warning ahead of rising temperatures forecast next week when casual swimmers may be tempted to take a dip in open water.

Cold water shock, which can affect breathing and movement even among strong and confident swimmers, is one of the biggest causes of drowning. It can take hold when people enter or jump into cold seas, rivers, canals and lakes where temperatures can be as low as 15C in the summer.

Figures from the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF) show that the number of people aged 19 and under who drowned accidentally in the UK increased by 24 per cent, from 25 in 2017 to 31 in 2018. Accidental drownings for all age groups in the combined months of June, July and August rose by 24 per cent, from 83 to 103, over the same period.

The LGA is calling for the dangers of cold water shock to be taught in swimming lessons. If schools don’t arrange swimming lessons for their pupils, they should receive the safety advice as part of personal, social, health and economic (PHSE) lessons, it says.

The NWSF figures showed that 263 people died from accidental drownings in the UK in 2018, a slight increase on the 255 drownings in 2017.

Anyone who falls into water can increase their chances of survival by fighting their instinct to swim and float instead for a minute or two, which will help them to regain control of their breathing while the effects of cold water shock pass, before trying to swim for safety or calling for help.

As well as cold water shock, the LGA says everyone needs to be more aware of other water risks, including tides and currents, and hidden dangers such as objects beneath the surface and unstable ground on beaches, cliffs, river banks and towpaths.


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