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Digital Subscriptions > Outdoor Swimmer > December 2017 > AVOIDING HYPOTHERMIA


We spoke to the experts to prepare this best-practice guide to minimising heat loss and rewarming cold swimmers when swimming in cool water


If you’re an outdoor swimmer, getting cold is an occupational hazard. Feeling the tingle of cool water across your body is one of the reasons many people prefer to swim outside than in a pool. However, our bodies cool down approximately three to four times quicker in water than air, when both are at the same temperature, which means hypothermia is a danger we need to be aware of and take measures to avoid.

We’ve consulted with experts from the RLSS, Portsmouth University and the British Long Distance Swimming Association to put together this guide to minimising heat loss in swimmers and rewarming those who do get cold.

The guidance is aimed at swimmers, swim group leaders and event organisers. It is primarily for people swimming without wetsuits but it’s important to note that a wetsuit does not offer total protection against cold or hypothermia and that wetsuits come in a range of thicknesses. One expert noted that wetsuit swimmers who get too cold often need more assistance than non-wetsuit swimmers, as the latter tend to respond quicker to the cold signals received through their skin and take action sooner.

The guidance is divided into three sections: pre-swim, swim and postswim. In addition, we provide notes on how to recognise hypothermia, when to seek medical assistance, how rewarming works and whether or not you should use grease. As a general comment, all swimmers (wetsuit and non-wetsuit) benefit from acclimatisation and experience. It’s good practice to keep a record of water temperatures and the length (ie. time) of your swims as this will give you a better understanding of how your body responds to cold water and what precautions you need to consider. It is often good, fast swimmers with little experience of cold water who are at greatest risk.

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About Outdoor Swimmer

Welcome to our Christmas issue! The December issue of Outdoor Swimmer is packed full of awesome features to inspire your swimming adventures. Master the medley; full listings for festive dips around the country; Christmas gift guide; plus, nutrition, technique, events, destinations, interviews and more of your stunning photography and swim stories.