What are the dangers of cold-water exposure?
Cold exposure has been demonstrated to improve our health. The advantages include boosting brown fat, which keeps us warm and helps us burn calories, lowering anxiety and depression, reducing inflammation, lowering cholesterol, assisting with weight reduction, enhancing sleep, and improving general well-being.
Swimming in open water, taking cold showers, or immersing oneself in extremely cold baths are all methods to reap these advantages. However, there are related risks that you should be aware of and prepared for. This post will look into these hazards.
Cold water below 160 degrees Celsius can shock your system and make breathing difficult. It is therefore wise to begin slowly. Do not be tempted to jump right in. It is also critical to gently enter the water so you can manage your breathing. When you enter cold water too quickly, you might hyperventilate, gasp, and suffer from cold shock. A cold shock from entering the water too rapidly or abruptly, such as if you fell in, might cause your blood pressure to skyrocket and lead to a heart attack. Don't be tricked into thinking it won't happen to you. Cold shock in open water may kill you regardless of your age or fitness level. So make sure you take the required safeguards.
Taking cold showers, like swimming in cold water, can harm the heart. If done too quickly and too coldly, it can create an irregular pulse, which can lead to blood clots, strokes, and, finally, heart failure.
It is critical to maintaining calm when having a cold shower or entering a body of cold water. To do this, you must breathe slowly and deeply to reduce your heart rate and engage the parasympathetic nervous system, which will keep you calm and provide more oxygen to your brain. Breathe gently in through the nose for four counts and out through the nose for eight counts. If you find it difficult, then ensure that you breathe out for twice as long as you breathe in.
Try stepping into the water gently to acclimate your body to the temperature. It is a good idea to splash water into your face a few times while you are in water up to your waist. This triggers an old reaction that causes us to believe we are underwater, reduces our pulse rate, and helps us stay calm. Next, bend your knees and steadily lower your body until your shoulders are submerged. To be calm, float on your back rather than trying to swim. Remember to maintain your breathing calm and deep.
It's also a good idea to take cold showers gently. Hold the shower head and stream cold water over each limb a few times. Then hang it back up, slap water on your face, and let it wash over your front and back. Increase the time you spend in the cold shower to allow your body to develop used to its effects.
If you want to swim in open water, it is critical that you do not swim alone and that you utilize a float or life jacket, regardless of your swimming abilities. A life jacket will keep you floating if you grow weary or if the chilly water makes swimming difficult. Even the most experienced swimmers can become confused in cold water. This might lead you to fear and gulp. Just one gulp might lead you to swallow water and drown.
Furthermore, if you begin to feel dizzy, lightheaded, disoriented, or have muscle cramps or weakness, these are symptoms that the cold water is damaging your body and are the first signs of hypothermia. Surprisingly, when you have hypothermia, you may begin to feel warm as your body tries to enlarge the blood vessels in your limbs to warm them up. This is quite dangerous, so get out of the water and into warm clothing as quickly as possible.
Cold water or ice baths can swiftly induce hypothermia or frostbite. As a result, it is not recommended to stay in an ice bath for more than two minutes when initially starting out, and no more than fifteen minutes at most. When it comes to getting into open water, the recommendation is one minute for each degree centigrade (not Fahrenheit) of temperature. In other words, if the water is 150 degrees Celsius, you should not stay in it for more than fifteen minutes.
Because the water is cold, you won't be able to swim as rapidly as you would in a heated pool, so take it easy, go gently, and keep your breathing constant. It's frightening how quickly things can go wrong in deep, frigid water. So, before you go in, make sure you know where you can get out securely and fast.
Other concerns to be wary of when swimming in open water include trash, boulders, water depth, strong currents, weirs, and waterfalls.
There are lakes where outdoor swimming is monitored, the water is maintained clean, and there are no currents. This is a lot better venue to practice your outside, cold water exposure swimming, especially for the first few times. There are also several outdoor lidos that are appropriate for novices. Due to the risks of currents, tides, and riptides, never swim in a river or sea while there is no lifeguard on duty. Do not swim near a weir or waterfall.
Another concern to be aware of if you are in open water is hygiene. As previously stated, open water swimming lakes are cleaned and inspected on a regular basis for contamination. This is not true for rivers, the sea, or lakes that are not approved for open water swimming. Be warned that certain algae might cause allergic reactions and unpleasant rashes. Open water may potentially include germs or organisms that can cause infections or illness. It is particularly vital not to swim in open water after heavy rain, since this can allow a variety of contaminants to enter the water, including human and animal waste products, which can cause illness and disease.
We have explored the practicality of avoiding the dangers of cold exposure; nevertheless, it is also crucial to be aware of the physiological threats to your health. As previously said, going into cold water too rapidly might trigger a sudden spike in blood pressure and a heart attack. Having said that, blood pressure does rise in cold-water swimmers. However, it normally recovers to normal levels a few minutes after they come out of the water. Furthermore, when done on a regular basis, the body develops resistance to the effect of cold water. However, the caution of entering the water too rapidly remains in effect.
Cold water exposure in open water is especially risky for the young, unskilled, and unhealthy. It is thus strongly encouraged that before beginning this type of program, you have a comprehensive check up at the doctor's office, especially if you have any type of cardiovascular (heart and lung) difficulties.
To summarize, exposure to really cold water can be hazardous since it might shock your system and make breathing difficult. If you plan on swimming in cold water, wear a life jacket, never swim alone, and know where to get out of the water in an emergency. If you notice anything unusual, get out of the water and into warm clothing right away. As long as you are cautious, take measures, and are aware of the risks, you will gain the many advantages of cold water exposure.
- Brown Fat https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/24015-brown-fat
- Adapted cold shower as a potential treatment for depression https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S030698770700566X?via%3Dihub
- Effects of long-term whole-body cold exposures on plasma concentrations of ACTH, beta-endorphin, cortisol, catecholamines and cytokines in healthy females. https://web.archive.org/web/20190222070658id_/http://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/3559/24275c0178ebf419287d87c1f90be68bc589.pdf
- Brown fat activation reduces hypercholesterolaemia and protects from atherosclerosis development. https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms7356
- Examining the benefits of cold exposure as a therapeutic strategy for obesity and type 2 diabetes https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/japplphysiol.00934.2020?rfr_dat=cr_pub++0pubmed&url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori%3Arid%3Acrossref.org
- Effect of the Depth of Cold Water Immersion on Sleep Architecture and Recovery Among Well-Trained Male Endurance Runners https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8044518/
- Could cold exposure boost your health and well-being? https://patient.info/news-and-features/could-cold-exposure-boost-your-health-and-wellbeing
- The Truth About Cold Water Swimming https://seabirdsdotblog.wordpress.com/2022/03/23/the-truth-about-cold-water-swimming/
- Cold water shock https://rnli.org/safety/know-the-risks/cold-water-shock
- Are Cold Showers Good for You? https://health.clevelandclinic.org/are-cold-showers-good-for-you/
- Heart arrhythmia https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-arrhythmia/symptoms-causes/syc-20350668
- Deep breathing and relaxation https://www.utoledo.edu/studentaffairs/counseling/anxietytoolbox/breathingandrelaxation.html
- Physiology, Diving Reflex https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538245/
- Hypothermia Explained https://trustcarehealth.com/blog/hypothermia-explained
- Ice Baths: Are They Worth It? https://www.bannerhealth.com/healthcareblog/teach-me/ice-baths-are-they-worth-it
- Winter swimming myth-busting https://www.outdoorswimcoach.com/post/winter-swimming-myth-busting
- Find open water swimming venues https://www.swimming.org/openwater/open-water-swimming-venues/
- 25 Outdoor pools in the UK to swim in this year https://www.womenshealthmag.com/uk/fitness/fitness-holidays/g32877161/outdoor-pools-near-me/
- Is it safe? https://www.outdoorswimmingsociety.com/is-it-safe/
- Is it clean? https://www.outdoorswimmingsociety.com/is-it-clean/
- Blood-pressure response to swimming in ice-cold water https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6101458/
- Cold Water Swimming—Benefits and Risks: A Narrative Review https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7730683/
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