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Swim England issues safety advice for open water swimming in hot weather

Swim England is warning people to be wary of the ‘hidden dangers of inviting water’ as the country is basked in soaring temperatures.

While taking a dip in a lake, canal, river or the sea can seem like the perfect way to for people to cool off during a heatwave, it can lead to tragedy if they are not experienced open water swimmers.

Following a number of recent fatalities, Swim England is now reiterating its safety advice to ensure more families don’t have to suffer the heartbreaking consequences of losing a loved one to drowning.

Even on an extremely hot day, open water can be incredibly cold, which can cause people to go into shock and make swimming difficult.

Currents can also be stronger than people might be expecting, while underwater objects not visible from the surface can be hazardous.


Jane Nickerson, Swim England chief executive, said: “Accidental drownings increased in 2020 and it is devastating to hear of so many more families losing loved ones.

“Open water might look particularly inviting on a hot summer’s day but there are many hidden dangers which can sadly have tragic consequences.

“While the physical and mental health benefits of open water swimming are well-known, everyone still has to #RespectTheWater and fully assess any risk before taking a dip.

“For those wanting to try open water swimming, we would encourage you to visit an accredited or recognised open water venue where staff can help you with safety advice and help you get accustomed to swimming outdoors.”

Swim England, alongside the Royal Life Saving Society UK and British Triathlon, has previously issued the following advice for staying safe in open water.

Plan your swim

  • Think about the water temperature and weather
  • Plan your exit before you get into the water. Consider any currents, the tidal flow and wind direction
  • Look out for safety signs and online information/feedback. If a sign says ‘no swimming and/or ‘danger’, don’t swim there
  • Let someone in your household know where you are, what you are doing and expected time to return.

Have the right equipment

  • Wetsuits help to manage exposure to cold water, they help insulate against the cold and keep you buoyant in open water
  • Wear a brightly coloured swim hat
  • Take a tow float.

Know your limits

  • Reduce the impact of cold water shock, acclimatise in the home environment and enter the water slowly
  • All open water swimming should take place in water at 11 degrees or above, unless you are an experienced and competent cold water swimmer
  • Unless you are a competent open water swimmer, swim under the supervision of lifeguards
  • Never swim alone in open water. The temperature and choppiness of the water can make things difficult
  • Swim parallel to the shoreline, wherever possible stay away from deeper water, which will be colder.

Know how to stay safe and get help

  • If you get into difficulty in the water, don’t panic, stay calm and float on your back until you can control your breathing and then continue to swim once again
  • Familiarise yourself with any rescue support or public rescue equipment
  • Understand basic self-survival and rescue skills.