Help reduce the drowning risk this Christmas

Fiona Heavey


Fiona Heavey

On average, 133 people drown every year, eleven every month in Ireland. In the last ten years, 30 children aged 14
and under drowned in Ireland. 

Irish Water Safety is concerned that many people planning to take part in Christmas swims may take chances beyond what is acceptably safe and are cautioning the public to minimize the length of time they remain immersed due to the risk of hypothermia.

“Cold shock” and hypothermia can overwhelm the fittest of swimmers but steps can be taken to remain accident free:
• Swimmers should “Get In, Get Out and Warm Up”, avoiding extended periods of exposure.
• Christmas Swim organisers should ensure that they provide comprehensive details of each
event to the Irish Coast Guard and local Gardai.
• Check with the Safety Officer, who will advise and has the ultimate responsibility for making
• If the seas are rough and weather deteriorates, wait for a more suitable day to honour your
charity commitment.
• Cold water cools muscles faster than during warmer summer swims and may cause cramp.
• Alcohol should be avoided before and immediately after swimming as it impairs judgment
• Ensure that you have safe access and egress with appropriate shallow shelving, steps or
ladders. Less agile people should be mindful that steps leading into the water might be
dangerous due to the possible growth of algae. Organisers should ensure that slipways or
steps have been cleaned of slime, weed and algae.

Safeguarding your loved ones extends beyond Christmas swims to family walks by rivers, lakes and shorelines. Spring tides occur on December 29th and will increase the risk of stranding on our coastline. Parents can be lulled into a false sense of security when visiting relatives living close to water hazards such as slurry pits, exposed drains and canals.

Safeguard your children with constant uninterrupted supervision and make a New Year’s resolution to learn swimming and lifesaving skills and to always wear a lifejacket on water.