The risks of swimming in open water

In this post we are going to talk about the risks of swimming in open water in Lifeguard course near me. The message we want to reiterate is that to be safe in open water, you need to think ahead and stay alert.

In our opinion, the benefits of open water swimming far outweigh the risks, but you should be aware of the potential risks and take steps to minimize their potential harm.

We can’t cover every eventuality here, but in the next post we list some of the most common perceived risks or hazards that can occur to an open water swimmer.

Water temperature

Compared to indoor, heated pools, which range in temperature from around 26 to 31 degrees Celsius, you’re likely to be exposed to a much wider range of temperatures when swimming in open water. Water temperature has a huge impact on how well you swim and how long you can safely stay in the water.

For the inexperienced, the greatest danger is sudden immersion in water that is significantly colder than they are used to. When this happens, the body’s initial and automatic response to the rapid change in skin temperature is, among other symptoms: a strong inhalation of air, an increase in respiratory rate and an increase in blood pressure.

It usually lasts up to a couple of minutes. For the unwary, such a sudden change in temperature can be deadly, especially if you have an underlying heart condition or hypertension, the sudden change in blood pressure can cause complications. Therefore, you should get into the water slowly and keep your face clear until you get your breathing under control.

The second problem with cold water is that it can lead to paralysis of limb movement . To protect vital organs, the body restricts blood flow to the extremities when we are in cold water. If this reaches extreme levels, your arms and legs no longer function properly so you will not be able to swim. If you feel that you are having trouble moving in the water, you should get out immediately.

Another risk is hypothermia .

This occurs when you experience a drop in core body temperature, which can lead to loss of consciousness and heart failure. The amount of time you can swim in cold water without becoming hypothermic is determined by temperature, your body size and shape, and your experience, among other factors.

Start with short swims to find out what your limits are. Always nothing with other people. If your stroke rate decreases or you start to shake, you should get out immediately

When you finish swimming, you should also be careful.

As you get out of the water and the cold blood from your extremities begins to circulate through your body again, it can lower your body temperature, which is why you often start shivering a few minutes after you finish swimming. To minimize the risk, you should immediately change into dry clothing and start with the upper part of your body. It is even advisable to put on a hat and gloves and drink a hot (non-alcoholic) drink.

A wetsuit will not prevent cold water shock or prevent you from becoming hypothermic. However, it will help keep you warmer for much longer, keep you afloat, and in most cases, allow you to swim faster.


Open water swimming is most appealing on hot, sunny days, but people swim in almost all conditions, and different types of weather come with different risks that you need to be aware of.

In hot climates, there can be a large contrast between air and water temperatures that can trap the unwary and is suspected to be the cause of some open water deaths. Therefore, you should always get into the water carefully. Remember that you can easily burn your skin while swimming, so be sure to protect your skin with water-resistant sunscreen.

Strong winds can make swimming conditions difficult. The water can be particularly unstable if the wind is blowing in the opposite direction to the current one. Learning to breathe on both sides can help you better cope with waves and bites.

Also keep in mind that a strong breeze increases the chill factor of the wind and can cool you down faster than expected. Finally, the wind can make support boats difficult, so events are sometimes cancelled.

Swimming in the rain is not a problem, you are still wet, and it can even be very pleasant to feel the drops on your back and look at the surface of the water.

Be sure to keep your clothes and towel dry for later, and be aware that conditions in some rivers can change quickly when it rains. Heavy rains can wash pollutants from the land into the water and cause storm surges to spill into rivers, so it would be wise to avoid certain rivers during or after heavy rains. You should get out of the water if there is danger of a thunderstorm.

Tides and currents

The range of tides in some parts of Spain is truly amazing, with the water level changing several meters in the course of six hours. This may mean, for example, that part of the beach you walked down to get into the water is now submerged in water.

Therefore, it is essential to pay attention and seek local knowledge when swimming in the sea or in the tidal reaches of any river. The tide also generates currents. If you look at the path of a swimmer, you can see very clearly how far a current can take you in a few hours, and that those currents change direction with the change of the tide.

Also watch out for rip currents in the sea . These are currents that flow into the sea and can carry the unwary away from the beach in a short space of time. Rip currents occur when water from waves crashing on the beach returns to the sea through a narrow channel (for example, a break in a sandbar below the surface).

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