Drowning risk increases as the heat wave intensifies; use caution while swimming, experts say

Jul 26, 2022, 11:11 AM | Updated: 11:25 am
lake union...
(Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)
(Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The risks of extreme heat are not limited to heat-related illnesses. The way we play in the heat can also be dangerous due to the increased risks of drowning.

Dr. Linda Quan at Seattle Children’s Hospital and the University of Washington School of Medicine said drownings go up whenever we see temperatures above 80 degrees.

The region has decreased drownings in young children over the years, but Quan said we’re seeing a greater proportion of drownings happening among young adults. This age group is more likely to take risks on the water, she said, because the brain hasn’t fully developed and matured.

Two men drown in Nooksack River in flipped commercial raft incident

Quan says in half of the local drownings, alcohol is involved. Alcohol impairs your judgment, making you more likely to do something dangerous. It affects your balance if you’re trying to stand on a paddleboard. And if you are falling into cold water while under the influence, even before cold water shock sets in, you can have a heart attack.

“We all know it has an effect on judgment, we know it affects balance, but it also has an effect on the heart especially when you jump or fall in cold water that can basically cause cardiac arrest,” Quan said.

Other risks on the water include the temperature; while the first few inches of water right now are warm, it’s still dangerously cold below that. The shock of the water can lead to drowning, especially for weaker swimmers like children and the elderly. Even a strong swimmer will only be able to swim for a few minutes in cold water before the temperature causes their limbs to essentially freeze up.

Another big risk is swimming in rivers, and not just because of the current. There are also the many different things you can be pulled into and trapped under, like brush and logs. Again, even a good swimmer can drown if they become pinned by a fallen tree.

“We have additional hazards in our rivers,” Quan said. “Fallen trees brush, these pose an additional risk, too. Getting pinned in those is the point of no return, even if you can swim.”

Quan recommends that people avoid swimming in rivers altogether — or if you must swim in a river, wear a life jacket and seek out a designated swimming area.

Follow Nicole Jennings on Twitter or email her here

Local News

(Photo from KIRO 7)...
Julia Dallas, KIRO 7 News and Bridget Chavez, KIRO 7 News

Redmond police using vehicle-mounted GPS tracking system to track down fleeing suspects

The Redmond Police Department started using StarChase Pursuit in January to safely pursue fleeing suspects.
1 day ago
Deedee Sun, KIRO 7 News

Murder of Kent teacher calls attention to mental health crisis in Washington

A Tacoma mom stabbed and killed on Wednesday has been identified as 66-year-old Gail Gese, a teacher at Cedar Heights Middle School in Kent.
1 day ago
In this photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Northwest, a Coast Guard rescue swimmer reac...
Associated Press

Man rescued by Coast Guard wanted in ‘Goonies’ fish incident

A man who was saved by a Coast Guard rescue swimmer at the mouth of the Columbia River as a massive wave rolled the yacht he was piloting Friday was wanted for a bizarre incident in which police said he left a dead fish at the Astoria, Oregon, home featured in the classic 1985 film, "The Goonies."
1 day ago
FILE - An Amazon company logo on the company's building in Schoenefeld near Berlin, Germany, March ...
Associated Press

Amazon violated labor law with delivery app

A Spanish court has ruled that Amazon broke labor laws by forcing more than 2,000 delivery drivers to use an app that the company controlled for scheduling work and payments and requiring them to use their own cars and cellphones on the job.
1 day ago
(KIRO 7)...
Shawn Garrett, KIRO 7 News

Deputies seize nearly 100 pounds of drugs during Tacoma arrest

Deputies with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department seized nearly 100 pounds of drugs while arresting a man with a felony warrant in Tacoma
2 days ago
police pursuit...
Matt Markovich

Source of pursuit deaths updates controversial data

Stats used by legislators to consider changing police pursuit laws may be in question.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Drowning risk increases as the heat wave intensifies; use caution while swimming, experts say