Charity highlights dangers of open water swimming in heatwave days after death of teenager in Yorkshire

As the heatwave continues, Lisa Salmon speaks to Lee Heard, of the Royal Life Saving Society about what parents should make sure their children know about open water.

The loss of a teenage boy who died while swimming in a Yorkshire river this week has prompted renewed warnings about the potential dangers of water.

West Yorkshire Police issued a reminder that temperatures in rivers, lakes and canals can remain dangerously low even in hot weather, after the body of a 16-year-old was recovered from the Aire and Calder Navigation near Southern Washlands in Wakefield earlier this week. The body of another 16-yer-old boy was recovered from water filling an abandoned quarry in Wigan.

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As the heatwave continues, The Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS UK) warns that even if a child or young person is a good swimmer and open water looks safe, there can be many hidden dangers that could lead them to get into difficulty. The charity says that in July 2021 there were 49 accidental drowning fatalities in just two weeks in the UK.

advice: Lee Heard charity director of the Royal Lifesaving Society UK .Picture: Edward Moss/RLSS UK/PA.

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Heard says the charity’s research has found more than 55 per cent of parents wouldn’t feel confident that their child would know what to do if they fell into open water. He is therefore sharing tips about what parents should make sure youngsters know.

1. Cold water can kill - RLSS UK says all waters in and around the UK and Ireland are cold enough to cause cold water shock, even in summer. You may start to hyperventilate and your blood pressure may shoot up as your body tries to keep the blood warm. As the muscles cool, strength, endurance and muscle control reduce to the point when you may not be able to swim any longer and could have difficulty getting out of the water.

2. Assess your surroundings -Heard advises parents to tell children to have a look for possible dangers before getting into any water, including the depth, which may differ.

3. Remember there may be unseen dangers - There can be many nasty and potentially dangerous surprises lurking under water, including sharp objects, and weeds that legs can get tangled in.

4. Find out about currents - There may be strong currents in seas and rivers, which may not be at all obvious from the surface. There may be signs warning about currents, or local people may know. “Strong currents can rapidly sweep people away,” says Heard. “If you find yourself caught in a riptide, don’t swim against it – you’ll tire yourself out. Swim with the current and call for help.”

5. Look out for lifeguards and safety equipment - “If there’s a lack of safety equipment, there’s increased difficulty for rescue,” warns Heard.

6. Float to live -Floating could help save their lives if children get into difficulty. “If you fall in or become tired, stay calm, float on your back and call for help,” Heard says, “or if you see someone in the water, throw something that floats to them and resist temptation to go in.”

7. Make sure you’re with friends - “Stay together when around water and always go with family and friends, so if anything goes wrong you’ve got someone there to help,” advises Heard.

8. Stay near the shore - “And always swim parallel to the shore, that way you’re never too far away from it,” Heard adds.

9. Know what to do in an emergency - It’s vital that pareSnts make sure their children know what to do if something goes wrong, stresses Heard – “In an emergency call 999 and ask for the Fire and Rescue service when inland and the Coastguard if at the coast.”

Visit rlss.org.uk