Safety official explains risks of swimming while dehydrated

Posted at 3:17 PM, Jul 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-17 16:26:29-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - To help cool off from the heat, beachgoers will likely take a dip in the ocean. But you should keep a drink handy, because a swim won’t help much if you are dehydrated.

"While the water cools your body temperature down superficially, it’s not giving you the hydration you need for when you’re not in the water, when you’re up on the beach,” said Chief Tom Gill with the Virginia Beach Lifesaving Service.

It’s in the upper 90s Wednesday, but people are still frolicking on the sand or swimming in the water. As you’re enjoying the beach or pool, you’re sweating and losing precious fluids from the heat.

“People come out here and they think just by being in the water that’s enough -- that’s not enough. You need the hydration, water, sometimes a little bit of sports drink mixed in there,” Gill said.

First responders told News 3 prevention starts way before getting into the water by drinking enough fluids early.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends kids drink water before, during and after swimming. Not doing so could lead to dehydration much faster, with symptoms including cramping, dizziness and headaches.

Related: Your guide to getting out of the heat in Hampton Roads

Safety officials say drinking the ocean’s saltwater is not going to help.

“You get pushed over by a wave and you swallow a little bit of water -- you’re swallowing down saltwater. That’s gonna be more of a dehydrating factor than a hydrating factor. Just overall being in that saltwater environment, it’s gonna take its toll on you," Gill said.

You likely won’t drown from dehydration unless you’re already suffering from heat stroke or something similar, according to Gill.

"If you want to have a great day and you want to be able to go from start to finish and enjoy your time out on a hot, sunny day like today -- you better be prepared. You better have the suntan lotion and a dry shirt that you can cover your body with so you’re not just getting that burn effect," he explained.

You should also take constant breaks and try to avoid being outside from noon to 3 p.m.