After drop & the risks of cold water swimming

  • Getting Started

You know we love a good bit of open water here at Beyond Swim, but we guess that’s obvious, given our name!

One of our main missions is not only to provide safe, accredited venues in which you can splash around and swim until your heart’s content, but it is also to make sure that wherever you decide to swim, you’ll be doing it safely.

And look, we don’t want to be party poopers, but there isn’t any fun in going open water swimming and getting yourself into a pickle – trust us!

So, as safety is on our minds and winter is setting in, we thought we’d talk about the cold water swimming risks and this funny little thing called ‘after drop’.

What on Earth is After Drop?

Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t something a DJ follows a banging tune with (yes, we think we’re cool).

No, after drop is a term that has been coined for when you go swimming in cold waters, get out feeling A-okay but then suddenly feel like you’ve plummeted into the deep sea in Antarctica. Basically, you begin to feel extra chilly; you shiver a whole bunch; you may even feel faint and nauseous; or worse, you may pass out entirely.

However, after drop can last from 10 to 40 minutes and cause hypothermia. Therefore, it’s super important that you…

Don’t Push Your Limits

After drop is caused because when you enter a very chilly body of water, your body stops circulating blood to your skin and instead sends it to your core to keep your overall temperature balanced. Due to this, your skin isn’t feeling precisely how cold the water is, and you may stay in the water for longer.

When you decide to leave the water, the cooling process doesn’t stop there either. Your body can continue to cool by up to 4.5 degrees centigrade, which then instigates the after drop.

Some people believe that after drop is caused by the cool from your skin reaching your core and changing your overall body temperature, but this theory has been disputed in favour of the conductive heat transfer theory.

Conductive heat transfer is where there is a gradient between the warm and cold in your body and that we cool from the outside in. Until the gradient is reversed and we begin to warm up from the outside, heat will be lost from the core, making you cooler overall.

This is why you should always…

Warm up straight away but gradually

It is most important that you wrap up warm as soon as you leave the icy cold water. Make sure you dry off completely and put on multiple layers. Have a warm drink – treating yourself to a hot chocolate would be our advice! And, whatever you do, do not have a hot shower straight away. Too much heat too quickly will cause your body to go into shock, leave you feeling much worse, and increase the chance of after drop.

Get yourself to a warm location to heat up gradually – popping on the heater in the car and getting snug is always a good shout. Even better, make sure you only ever…

Go Cold Water Swimming with a Friend

Or anyone really! They don’t have to be your bestie or whatnot – but never attempt cold water swimming alone.

Why? Well, if you go for a lovely morning dip and get out to feel a boatload of after drop, you might find yourself head-butting the floor with no one to help you. And while you might think that’s extreme, you wouldn’t want to risk finding yourself in that situation, would you?

Whenever you are open water swimming of any kind, you should never go it alone. Even if you’ve done it before (naughty!) and you feel mega-confident. it’s honestly not worth the risk. Tides and weather change, and you could get caught in foliage, rocks, or debris, injure yourself, or, as this blog points to, end up with after drop. It’s always safest to swim with others, besides, we think open water swimming is best done as a team sport anyway.

The Cool Down

Now we know the difference between after drop and letting the beat drop, you know what to expect when swimming in cold water and learn how to keep yourself safe from the risks.

We also did a nifty little blog on cold water swimming with more safety tips because you can never have enough.

Be sure to know your limits, swim with company and warm up after your cold water swim.

And do yourself one better, swim at one of our accredited Beyond Swim open water swimming venues across the UK and team up with other swimming enthusiasts like yourself!