The do's and don'ts for Christmas Day or New Year’s Day swim

A swim in the chilly sea on Christmas Day or New Year's Day has become a tradition for thousands of people in the globe. In the UK, Ireland and Geneva, this festive swim has become a charity fund-raising activity which attracts hundreds of swimming participants every year. They dress up as Santa Claus, wearing Christmas hats or red swimsuits representing Santa. In fact, hundreds of Hong Kong swimmers also participate in the New Year’s Day swim every year. They see this festive swim as good luck and prepare both mental and physical health for the new year. If you are thinking of joining them this New Year, here are the risks! The fact that everyone else seems to be doing it all of a sudden doesn’t make it safe. Few of these dips have much in the way of safety or procedure, so it’s important – as it is in all outdoor swimming – that you knowingly and voluntarily accept responsibility for yourself.

CHRISTMAS OR NEW YEAR'S SWIM -DO'S 

1. Do ensure you are warm before the swim.

Remove your warm clothing at the last minute (and especially your shoes – you lose lots of heat into the ground).

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2. Do go in feet first

not head first – you will involuntarily gasp when your body hits the water, and you don’t want to be under it when this happens.

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3. Do wear a wetsuit

If you run straight into cold water you are more likely to suffer from cold water shock. The best way to avoid this is to wear a wetsuit. If this isn’t possible, walk into the sea slowly and stay shallow. This will allow your body time to acclimatise gradually.

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4. Do wear mirrored/smoked lens goggles

It is important to protect your eyes from the reflection of the water and sunshine. Use mirrored-lens can reflect the sunshine and make your eyes more comfortable while swimming.

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5. Do wear a buoyancy aid.

The wave and danger are unpredictable. The buoyancy aid is a safety precaution that you can use whistle to attract the rescuer and float on the water.

6. Do take special care to your breathing

Having your breathing under control before immersing your shoulders or swimming is very important. The gasp reflex is involuntary and occurs as you enter the water. This gasp is followed one to three minutes’ hyperventilation, or very fast breathing, and a significant rise in heart rate. Both the gasp reflex and hyperventilation can result in you aspirating water (breathing it into your lungs). This can lead to panic and drowning. Some people like to stand waist-deep, put their hands under the water, splash a little water on their cheeks, and wait for breathing to normalise. Others like to focus on the exhale, puffing air out, as they regularise their breathing.

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7. Do warm-up slowly

Do some gentle walking if you feel okay. Increase the level of activity gradually if you wish, but stop if you feel unwell and sit down.

8. Do dry off and put on layers to keep you warm quickly

You may feel deceptively warm at this point, it’s 10 minutes after exit that you’re at your coldest, so you want to wrap up and warming up by then.

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9. Do take more clothes for afterwards than before

A hat, gloves, warm socks/boots and windproof layer if it’s exposed are all likely to be appreciated.

10. Do have a warm drink and some cake

A sugar boost right after the open water swimming can help you to restore blood sugar level. 

CHRISTMAS OR NEW YEAR'S SWIM- DON'TS

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1. Don’t swim alone

2. Don’t take part if you have a fever or chest infection

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3. Don’t jump or dive into deep water unless you know what you’re doing and are acclimated to that level of cold

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4. Don’t take part if you’ve been drinking alcohol, have a hangover, or have taken recreational drugs

These will affect your judgement (about the length of time you can stay in the water for example), and also your body’s ability to withstand the cold.

5. Don’t stay in too long

 As soon as you feel comfortably warm in the water it’s time to leave!

6. Don’t have a hot shower or enter a hot room till you are comfortable

It’s okay to sit in a warm room. Hot baths and showers bring blood back to the freezing surface of your skin quickly, chilling your core. Better to warm up slowly from the inside out.

WHAT'S MORE FOR OPEN WATER SWIMMING DURING HOLIDAYS?

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If you manage to get the past all these, there is a great plus!  Swimming in cold water triggers the release of endorphins and they can last all day.Let's try out open water swimming in the coming holidays!

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