How to keep safe in the water as heatwave takes hold across the UK

There is a wealth of water safety advice for those looking to cool off in the sea, lakes or rivers during the heatwave. Credit: Unsplash

Temperatures are continuing to soar across the UK on Monday and Tuesday and people will be no doubt be seeking to cool off in the sea, rivers and lakes.

There have already been a number of water-related tragedies during the rising heat over the weekend, including the deaths of two teenagers and a 50-year-old man.

A body was found during an extensive search for a 13-year-old boy near to the village of Ovingham, in Northumberland, which started on Sunday.

In Greater Manchester, a 16-year-old boy died after he was seen struggling in the water at Salford Quays at around 6.15pm on Saturday.

And officers in West Yorkshire were called to a report of a man in difficulty in the water Ardsley Reservoir, near Wakefield, at 5.30pm on Saturday. A body of the 50-year-old was found on Sunday.

The government has issued advice on staying safe in the hot weather, with guidance on ensuring safety when swimming.

Tips on staying safe in the water

Whether you are an experienced swimmer or not, there are simple principles you should follow when swimming:

  • Always look for warning and guidance signs

  • Only enter the water in areas with adequate supervision and rescue cover

  • Always wear a buoyancy aid or lifejacket for activities on the water or at the water’s edge (such as when boating or fishing)

  • Never enter the water after consuming alcohol

  • Be aware of underwater hazards

  • Get out of the water as soon as you start to feel cold

  • Swim parallel with the shore, not away from it

  • Avoid drifting in the currents

  • Do not enter fast flowing water

  • Always take someone with you when you go into or near water. If something goes wrong they will be able to get help. If someone is in difficulty in the water shout reassurance to them, shout for help and call the emergency services (call 999 or 112)

Charities including the RNLI and Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) have a wealth of information on water safety online.

The RNLI has detailed information on knowing the risks and how to remain safe when it comes to water. They are reminding people during the extreme heat to Float to Live if you get into trouble in the water.

The RNLI advice is:

Whatever you're doing

  • Be aware of the dangers

  • Know your limits and don't take risks

  • Go with others and look out for each other

  • Make sure your phone is charged so you can call for help if you come across anyone who needs it

At the beach and in the water

  • In the summer head to a lifeguarded beach, between the red and yellow flags

  • Assess whether the conditions exceed your ability. Swimming in the sea is very different to swimming in a pool

  • Take a moment to acclimatise to the water temperature when you get in

  • Make sure you have someone watching from the beach to provide shore cover. Make sure they have a way to call for help

If you find yourself in the water unexpectedly

  • Take a minute: The initial shock of being in cold water can cause you to gasp and panic. Effects of cold water shock pass in less than a minute so don not try to swim straight away

  • Relax and float: Float on your back while you catch your breath. Try to get hold of something that will help you float

  • Keep calm: Once you are calm, call for help. Swim for safety if you are able.

You can also find more advice and information from RoSPA, including the charity's water safety code, on their website.

Red and amber warnings for extreme heat are in place for large parts of the UK. Credit: PA Images

How to stay safe out of the water

With red and amber warnings for extreme heat in place for large parts of the UK, it is also important to stay safe out of the water. Other authorities including councils have issued their own advice on staying cool.

In the North East, where an amber warning is in place, Sunderland City Council issued these tips on staying cool:

  • Stay cool indoors

  • Drink plenty of fluids, avoid excess alcohol and making sure to take water with you if you're travelling

  • Stay out of the sun between 11am and 3pm if at all possible

  • Look out for older people and others who may find it more difficult to stay cool and hydrated in hot weather

  • Avoid extreme physical exertion during the hot weather if at all possible

  • If you're going out in the hot weather, walk in the shade, apply sunscreen, wear a hat and light, loose cotton clothes

  • Don't leave babies, children, older people or vulnerable people or pets alone in stationary cars in hot weather and don't be tempted to cover prams with muslins and covers in an attempt to keep babies cool as they can overheat

  • If you or others feel unwell, get dizzy, feel weak, anxious or have intense thirst, move to a cool place, rehydrate and cool your body down

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...