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What is the cold shock response?

On Behalf of | Apr 14, 2024 | Boating Accidents

Have you ever jumped into a pool or a lake that was a little colder than you thought it was? Did it take your breath away when you hit the cold water? Maybe you eventually acclimated to it and you could swim without problem, because it wasn’t actually that cold. But you still had this surprising response when you were first submerged under the water.

This is very common, and it is known as a cold shock response. It often makes people feel like their chest is tight, and they will gasp sharply when they hit the water. In some cases, people will also start to hyperventilate, which is often an uncontrolled reaction.

Why is this so dangerous?

This is dangerous for two reasons. The main issue is that gasping and hyperventilating will often cause people to inhale water. That’s why this is known as a precursor to drowning. They may start coughing, not be able to catch their breath, and go underwater. In some situations, a person will fall into the water and drown very quickly because of the cold shock response, even if they ordinarily would have been a strong swimmer and they should have been able to tread water – at least for a few minutes.

The second reason why the cold shock response is so problematic is that it is uncontrolled. Those who can get their body to calm down often find that they can adjust to the water temperature. It may still be uncomfortable, but it’s nothing like it was when they were first submerged. But those who can’t control the response may drown as a result.

There are many hazards for those working around the water, and the cold shock response is just one of them. Those who have been injured, along with families who have lost loved ones, need to know what legal options they have.