Diving Back In: Swimming After Hypothermia


Wild water swimming can be an exhilarating and rewarding experience, but it comes with certain risks, especially in cooler waters. One of the most serious risks is hypothermia, a condition that occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it. If you’ve experienced hypothermia during a swim, it’s crucial to know whether it’s safe to get back into the water, or whether you maybe putting yourself in danger. In this guide, we’ll provide guidance on how to determine when you can safely return to wild water swimming after suffering an episode of hypothermia.

Recognising Hypothermia

Before discussing when to resume swimming, it’s essential to recognize the signs of hypothermia. These may include shivering, confusion, numbness, and a drop in body temperature. If you or someone you’re with displays these symptoms, it’s crucial to take immediate action, such as exiting the water and seeking warmth.

Seek Medical Evaluation

If you’ve experienced hypothermia, it’s advisable to seek medical evaluation and clearance before returning to swimming. Medical professionals can assess your physical condition, vital signs, and any potential complications.

Coast Medic provide Paramedic led support to a number of wild water swimming events where they offer friendly advice to competitors to ensure that their experience is safe and enjoyable.

Gradual Reentry is Key

Once you’ve received medical clearance, it’s vital to ease back into swimming gradually. Start with shorter swims in warmer conditions to allow your body to readjust to the water temperature. Your tolerance for cold water may be reduced after a hypothermic episode.

Choose Warmer Waters

Opt for swimming locations and seasons with milder water temperatures. Avoid swimming in extremely cold water until you’re confident in your ability to handle it.

Stay in Groups

Swimming with others is not only safer but also provides an extra layer of security in case anyone experiences difficulties. Always let someone know your swimming plans and expected return time.

Wear Appropriate Gear

Invest in high-quality cold-water swimming gear, such as wetsuits or drysuits, to help maintain your body temperature and reduce the risk of hypothermia.

Monitor Your Body

Pay close attention to how your body reacts during and after swimming. If you start to feel excessively cold, fatigued, or experience any unusual symptoms, exit the water immediately and warm up.

Listen to Your Body

Your body’s tolerance to cold water can vary from day to day. If you ever feel uncomfortable or unsafe during a swim, don’t hesitate to abort and seek warmth.

Stay Informed

Keep yourself informed about weather conditions, water temperature, and safety guidelines for the specific location you plan to swim in. Always prioritize safety over thrill.


Hypothermia is a serious condition that requires caution and care when returning to wild water swimming. Always consult with medical professionals, gradually ease back into swimming, and prioritize safety and self-awareness. By taking these precautions, you can continue to enjoy the beauty and serenity of wild water swimming while minimizing risks to your health.

Coast Medic provides medical support to numberous wild-water and sea swim events through out the UK including the Scilly Swim Challange. Our Doctors, Paramedics and Responders all follow agreed guidelines and protocols to ensure these events are delivered safely.