The UK is having a heatwave at the moment and we’re seeing plenty of people in and on the water trying to cool off. So here are our top tips for enjoying the sun and the water while staying safe when it’s hot.
Just because it’s hot, doesn’t mean you should get rid of important equipment such as buoyancy aids and helmets if needed. Whether or not you’re a capable swimmer, safety equipment like this is important, even if they do make you feel a bit warmer than you’d like!
Especially when you’re out in the middle of a lake, a cool breeze can feel like a god-send for keeping you cool. However, remember that just feeling cool doesn’t mean your skin isn’t being burned. Even strong winds, on a hot day, are no defence against the hot sun. Keep your protection on at all times.
Do you know that many sun creams cause pollutions in the Lake District’s waterways? If you’re in the water, try reducing your use of sunscreen by wearing suitable clothing such as hats and tops with built-in UV protection.
For more environmentally safe sun creams, look out for those with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, and avoid oxybenzone. Try and avoid spray options too, as they can distribute pollutants across a wider area of the ground.
If you suspect you or someone in your group is suffering from heatstroke, alert the people you’re with, get back to shore as quickly (and calmly) as possible, and seek immediate medical help. The main signs of heatstroke include:
It’s always a good idea to be with someone if you’re doing water activities, but this is especially important in heatwaves. With at least one other person, you can keep an eye on each other and take action if one of you suffers an emergency such as heatstroke.
A heatwave often makes you feel like it’s time for a celebration, which means cracking out the alcohol. While we love a can or two by the shore, you should never go in the water after drinking alcohol, no matter how little you’ve had or how ‘fine’ you feel. Alcohol consumption not only badly impacts your decision making, it drops your body temperature, which can lead to issues such as hypothermia.
Do you know that the place your visiting is safe to swim or paddle? Are there currents, hidden dangers? Make sure you know the water, or ask someone who does, before you get wet. The Cumbrian coast, for example, has fast-changing currents that can quickly take you out to sea. Popular cliff diving spots may not be safe in hot periods due to lower water levels.
In the heat, everyone rushes to the lakes in the Lake District. With limited parking in many areas, people start parking on grass verges and in passing places, which means blocked roads. Not only is this frustrating to other road users, and damaging to beauty spots, it can be life-threatening. Blocking roads means you could stop an emergency vehicle going to help someone in distress on the water.
Consider travelling by public transport instead and finding somewhere else to visit if there are no designated parking spaces.
A hot external temperature doesn’t guarantee warm water. Even on the hottest of days water can be very cold, especially in deeper lakes or further away from the shore. Try to acclimatise yourself gradually to the cooler temperatures. When you leave the water, remember to wrap up warm – even on hot days – until your body has had the chance to adapt to the change.
If you’re in a kayak or swimming away from the shore, remember to take additional sun cream, layers, and protective clothing with you. These can all be stored in dry bags to keep them safe from the water.
Of course, this one should go without saying, but it’s important! Drink plenty of water, constantly, even if you’re swimming and even if you feel okay. By the time you feel thirsty, your body is already dehydrated, so drinking small amounts regularly is better than gulping down a full bottle all at once when you’re already parched.
If you end up in the water by accident (for example, if you fall off a boat), try and remain calm. You’ll feel very cold and breathless at first, but wait for a few seconds and your body will eventually overcome it. Float on your back while you catch your breath, then swim to safety if you can, or else call for help.
Don’t stay out longer than necessary. Ideally, you should be back to shore and in the shade before you feel tired, over-heated or extremely thirsty. Plan shorter excursions and take regular breaks from the sun. Or, even better, avoid the hottest part of the days and take advantage of longer sunlight hours by going in the morning or evening.
You can still have a good time in, near and on the water when it’s warm. Just remember to take extra care in high temperatures to make the most of the weather and to have a great day.
For more tips on staying safe in the water in general, see our safety guide.