Sandycove, Co Dublin, a popular beach and swimming area for Dubliners
As the May Bank Holiday approaches, Water Safety Ireland has issued a warning to the dangers of cold water shock  – a factor in up to five drownings every fortnight. Five people drown in Ireland every fourteen days (127 every year) and cold water is a factor in many of  these drownings.
The shock of cold water immersion and the onset of hypothermia are two factors that will put people at risk when visiting coastlines and inland waterways.
The dangers of cold water immersion
When cold water contacts the skin, the cold shock response causes an immediate loss of breathing control, possible dizziness and panic. This dramatically increases the risk of sudden drowning, even if the water is calm and you know how to swim.
For those who survive this but are unable to exit the water, progressive body cooling leads to hypothermia and muscle cooling, making swimming more difficult or impossible. Children cool even faster than adults because they are smaller and have less fat.
What to do if you fall in to cold water
Avoid swimming, stay calm and relax. Float or tread water and if possible get as much of your body out of the water, because you will always cool faster in water than in air. Wearing a lifejacket with a crotch strap will enable you to reduce heat escape by keeping your legs together and elbows by your side.
‘People have a responsibility to themselves and family to stay safe around water by knowing the dangers and learning from previous situations that have led to tragic drownings,’ warns Water Safety Ireland
  • Swimmers should swim parallel and close to the shore and be aware that water temperature, (11°C coastal and inland) is still too cold for extended swims. Wear a wetsuit and ‘Swim within your depth and stay within your depth’.
  • Always wear a lifejacket when on water and when angling from shore. Ensure that it is properly maintained and has a correctly fitted crotch strap.
  • Shore walkers should stay away from the edge and beach walkers should remain vigilant to the risk of being stranded by incoming tides.
  • Ensure you are fully trained and competent for your aquatic activity. Find training providers at www.safetyzone.ie
  • Children require constant uninterrupted supervision near water. Parents of primary school children should check if local schools are teaching the classroom based-water safety curriculum, available at http://www.iws.ie/education/paws.2925.html
  • Alcohol should be avoided before or during any aquatic activity. On average, a third of drowning victims had consumed alcohol.
  • In an emergency call 112 and ask for the Coast Guard. Always call early.
New moon dangers (May 4)
New moons cause spring tides and strong rip currents will create a higher risk than usual for swimmers. The tidal streams will run very strong, posing a risk to those boating, angling, yachting, canoeing and any other water- related leisure activities on the coast.
Stranding will also be a risk for walkers as the lower tide will expose even greater areas of the coastline. Parents should give constant, uninterrupted supervision as lifeguards will not be on duty at local authority beaches over the Holiday weekend.
Anyone going afloat should carry a portable Marine VHF and/or a personal locator beacon, and walkers should carry a mobile phone to call 112 in an emergency.