COLORADO SPRINGS — Multiple drownings across Colorado have been mainly caused by a lack of life vests and cold water, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Before you go in, it’s important to know the impact the cold water may have on your body and what you should do to protect yourself.
Dr. Ian Tullberg, medical director at UCHealth Urgent Care said the cold water acts like a big shock to our nervous system and it does not take long for it to affect you.
“When you hit that cold water, you have this initial response, what’s called a cold shock response. What happens is you get that initial gasp and your respiratory rate just skyrockets,” Tullberg said.
Tullberg said water temperatures do not have to be freezing in order to be cold water. Temperatures 60 degrees or lower can cause the body to go into shock and your muscles to tense up.
“Muscles get numbed up and they get paralyzed. You know, no matter how good of a swimmer you are, sometimes those things you just can’t overcome,” Tullberg said.
He said the best way to protect yourself may be the one thing you forget to wear.
“The life jacket is the number one key because when you go into that initial shock and you take that deep breath, that life jacket is going to hopefully keep that airway clear. So you go underwater, you take that deep breath, and that might be all it takes,” Tullberg said. “You might not be able to have the coordination to get that life jacket on if you’re in the water and not already wearing it.”
If you go into the water, make sure to be close to someone else in case you need help.
“Always have that communication and be within earshot because sometimes people also don’t flail around. You know, sometimes you can just see maybe their arms just kind of sticking out of the water. But that flailing just doesn’t always happen,” Tullberg said.
Tullberg said it’s always best to call authorities before you jump in to help.
“You have that adrenaline rush right away seeing someone’s in trouble. So you want to go save them and help them in whatever way you can. But you might not be able do that. Your adrenaline might not save you and you might end up in the exact same situation,” Tullberg said.
Also if you are watching someone in the water, look for changes in their swimming pattern as it will change if their body is in shock.
“If you start seeing some folks get a little bit more vertical. They’re really getting tired out and they might getting into that incapacitated state where their muscles just aren’t working like they should,” Tullberg said.
He mentioned another thing to keep in mind is trying to limit the mixing alcohol, water, and recreation.
“So really make sure to keep safety number one. Make sure that water, recreation, and alcohol, they don’t mix. Wait to get back to shore to have whatever you want to have on any of these days,” Tullberg said.
For more details on how to keep you and your family safe while out on the water visit the National Weather Service website.