Dangers of Open Water Swimming

The Police

With the extreme temperatures, some may be tempted into open water swimming.  This message is sent on behalf of our Underwater Search Unit to raise awareness of the dangers.

Cold Water Shock

Immersion in cold water rapidly incapacitates you and can kill you.

The sudden exposure of your head and body to cold water can cause a number of involuntary body reactions – this condition is known as cold water shock. It is one of the most profound stimuli that the body can encounter and it cannot be prevented. It can be as swift as it is deadly.

Cold water shock can be lethal in minutes as it can cause a number of instant, powerful, involuntary respiratory reflexes:

cause you to inhale as you go under the water, due to an involuntary gasping reflex, and drown without coming back to the surface drastically reduce your ability to hold your breath underwater, typically from a minute or so to less than 10 seconds induce vertigo as your ears are exposed to cold water, resulting in failure to differentiate between up and down.Submerged Objects

When jumping into open water there is no way of knowing whether there are any submerged objects or structures under the water. These objects can cause severe injury. There can also be weeds growing under the surface which can become entangled around your legs and drag you under the water.

Photo’s below of items recovered. Divers located a 2m long spike from a bridge in Beverley. The spike was submerged vertically at a location where youths are known to jump from the bridge into the river.



Swimming and jumping into open water can increase the risk of gastrointestinal infections (diarrhoea and/or vomiting) as well as respiratory, skin, ear and eye infections.

Please do not be tempted into open waters, it is much safer to find other ways to keep cool and enjoy the summer weather.