Simple Tips to Help You Survive Falling into Cold Water
March 19, 2022

Did you know that water takes heat from your body 25 times faster than air would? So, if you’ve fallen into cold water, there’s no time before your body hypothermia hits. The first hack to survive falling into cold water is to stay calm and act fast.

Recent research from the University of Minnesota shows that where the water temperature is 0.3C, there is less than 15 minutes before unconsciousness sets in and 45 minutes of survival. Whereas, where the water temperature is between 15.6C – 21.1C, there is less than 2 – 7 hours before unconsciousness and between 2 – 40 hours of survival. Generally, there’s not enough time, so let’s get to it.

1. Stay calm and don’t flail conserve energy, so you don’t lose heat. Keep in mind that you lose heat fast when you flail. There’s the cold-shock response to trigger your instincts, but don’t do it – turn it off. You can practice turning off the cold-shock response when you’re outside shivering in the cold.

2. Curl like a fetus, with your knees touching your chest and arms clutching your calves and shins.

3. Try getting a part of your core out of the cold water. It’s better if you can find a log to curl over – anything to keep your body out of the water.

4. Try to get your clothes tighter than usual. You can try closing all your cuffs and collars helps to convert your clothes into a heat-trapping suit.

5. Again, your instincts will want you to try swimming, but don’t listen to it. You should only swim if getting out of the water is within reach. Swimming upsets warm water layers between your body and your clothing, thereby sending warmer blood to your body extremities. This slashes the chance that you’ll survive falling into cold water by almost half

6. If you have people around you, huddle together for support and warmth. This way, you can be more visible to rescuers.

What to do once you’re Out of Water

It’s a typical Hollywood stunt to strip off wet clothes immediately people are out of wet. But this isn’t generally advisable, as the true answer will depend on what clothes are wet and how much they’re wet. Whether you have people, tents, fire around, you will also determine the best step t0 take.

Wet clothes don’t dry well in the cold; they would instead need a source of heat, be it body heat or fire. If you step into shallow water, remove the damp item and dry them. Remove the wet clothing, dry the water, and put it back on. Or you can let the clothes freeze, beat them against a rock, and smash the ice. At this stage, every bit helps.

Another idea to try is the Navy SEAL’s Rewarming Drill Method. It’s essentially trapping and protecting your body heat to raise your body’s internal temperature while slowly drying out the clothing. If you happen to have a poncho or a tarp, wear it over your wet clothes. It keeps the wind from worsening the dampness and creates extra layers of air for your body heat to dry out the clothes.