Swimming in open water poses several risks and dangers that may require first aid intervention to keep the person safe.
Being aware of the possible dangers and knowing how to provide first aid can prevent unexpected emergencies in open water that you don’t have to deal with when swimming in pools.
Is it Safe to Swim in Open Water?
The benefits of swimming and dipping in open water are obvious – it allows new adventure and promotes good physical and mental well-being.
Approximately 294 Australians drown in open water during 2020-21. Many of these drownings happen due to a lack of knowledge and understanding of open water safety.
The basic principles of open water safety and awareness of possible hazards can significantly reduce the number of accidental deaths every year.
Certain risks come with swimming in open water, and below are just some of them.
Top 5 First Aid incidents in Open Water Swimming
Open water usually has colder water than we have in regular pools, which can affect a person’s swimming ability. Moreover, accidentally falling into cold water can result in shock, panic, and even drowning.
Staying in open water during cold months can increase the risk of hypothermia. Hypothermia occurs when a human body has been in the water for so long that it starts to numb.
Common signs and symptoms of hypothermia may include shivering, cold and pale skin, loss of fine motor skills and limb control. You may also notice the person developing bluish colour around the lips and eye area.
All these symptoms can lead to loss of consciousness and heart failure.
Cuts, bruises, sprains, and strains.
The slippery surfaces and unseen rocks, and other sharp materials can cause you to have cuts, bruises, sprains, and strains. These types of injuries can be difficult to manage while in open water.
To prevent such injuries, wear safety boots to keep the feet warm and safe from sharp edges. Open wound injuries are also susceptible to infection, so it’s better to take precautions before going in open water.
Leg cramps occur when the muscles go into spasm, which is very painful and can come on very suddenly. This often happens if you’ve been running or cycling before diving into the water.
Muscle cramps are known to be debilitating while in the water, so it is best to have a swim float nearby in case it happens.
The jellyfish species are on the rise around Australia’s seas. Jellyfish stings can be painful and are essentially chemical burns.
The stingers may also lodge onto the skin, which requires quick removal before it causes serious damage.
Freshwater environments often contain germs, viruses, and pollution that can spoil your time around water. These harmful organisms may enter the body through the mouth or open wounds and abrasions.
How to Stay Safe in Open Water
The first thing to do to prevent drowning in open water is to learn how to swim. Possessing swimming skills has been proven to be a necessary skill that can reduce the chances of drowning by 88%.
Be prepared and think before diving into the water. Check for the right entry and exit points, and take extra precautions when dealing with rocks, weeds, difficult banks, and shoreline slopes.
If swimming alone, let other people know your location and when you are expected to be out of the water or back home. Keep in touch at all times.
Before going into the location, check for the water. Keep alert for fast water ripples and changing tides. Swim with other people, preferable locals, who are familiar with the area and know what to do if you encounter a difficulty.
Have an appropriate first aid kit nearby and go on a first aid course to know what to do in an emergency.
Knowing what to do in open-water emergencies and attending a first aid course will give you the skills and confidence to deal with these kinds of situations.
First Aid Course Darwin is a trusted provider of training courses in Australia, and our courses comply with the national guidelines. This assures our students will find our first aid courses relevant and useful.
Find out more about a First Aid course here.