On hot summer days, parents and children often don’t think about how cold the water is. They feel strong heat from the sun and can’t imagine the water is cold enough to be dangerous. Children may not seem to notice as they’re happily playing, but that doesn’t mean they’re not feeling the cold. Water in northern oceans and lakes can be freezing, even in hot summer weather. Parents should be aware of the risks of low water temperatures, especially when there’s little ones involved.
What is hypothermia?
Hypothermia is a physical condition that occurs when the body’s core temperature falls below a normal 37° C to 35° C or cooler. Body heat is lost 25 times faster in cold water than in cold air, so hypothermia happens much more quickly. Hypothermia affects your brain, heart, lungs, and other vital organs. Children are especially vulnerable because they like to play for a long time in the water and are less affected by the cold than adults. Make sure your children stay safe while they’re having fun!
Make sure children wear clothing that will insulate them from the cold, such as fleece or wool undergarments under wind or waterproof outer layers such as Gore-Tex. Rash guards, beach cover-ups, and life jackets are also important.
Make sure children don’t just carry life jackets, but actually wear them. Picking the right size for the child’s height and weight is important for the life jacket to be effective. A vest-type PFD gives more protection than a collar-type, but insulated-type flotation jackets protect more of your body. A hood protects the head and neck, while a removable seat panel protects the groin. You might also consider adding reflective tape to PFDs to increase visibility.
Be aware of the risks of cold water, even if your kids are playing nearby or at the water’s edge. And most importantly, avoid situations that could put yourself or your children in danger of catching hypothermia so you can spend your time in the water having fun!