Beware of cold water and pools

“Sarah has forgotten how to swim. We went to a friend’s pool on the weekend and she nearly drowned. She jumped into the pool and she only just made it back to the side. I feel like we will have to start all over again.”

Many times I have heard comments, from parents at the beginning of the season, similar to the one above. The cause of the child’s problem is the water temperature. At this time of the year the outside pools, even the ones with solar heating, are cold and can be cold. The shock of the cold water cause the child/swimmer to lift their head up out of the water, which in turn causes their legs to sink, which cause mild panic to set in. The child/swimmer then has great difficulty getting a breath. Not a good experience all round.

These types of incidents can be avoided if the parents are aware of the ramifications cooler water has on inexperienced swimmers. Until the weather warms up, if their children are going to go swimming in an outside pool, they need to make sure that their child’s body temperature adjust to the water temperature by slowing getting used to the water before they attempt to do what the may be able to do in swimming lessons.  Sitting on the steps, sliding in and holding on to the side of the pool, waiting a while to let their body temperature dissipate, after they get out of their clothes and into their swim suits, before they get into the water etc.

Take time to get your child wet, and if the child does not want to put their face in or do the things that they can do at swimming lessons, that’s fine. Just because they do not want to do these things in cold water does not mean that they have forgotten these skills, it just means that they do not like cold water at this particular stage of their swimming skills development. If the parent is patient and exposes the child/swimmer to the cooler water slowly, then they will find that after a while the child will know what to expect when they encounter cold water and will start to use the skills that they have mastered at swimming lessons.

Parents need to be aware that cold water, especially on children/adults with a very low percentage body fat, really feels the cold and this affects the way they swim. So make sure that you as parents are aware of this, as it may save you having to deal with the statement this article opened with.

Chris Shapland.