As temperatures look set to soar across Ireland new research commissioned by the RNLI, as part of a Respect the Water campaign, reveals that 39% say they would follow their instincts and fight against the water, if they fell in.

A new campaign featuring a partnership between the RNLI and the GAA is asking people to fight their instincts and remember one simple piece of advice – floating can save lives.  Sudden immersion in cold water puts people at risk of cold water shock, this triggers the instinctive reaction to gasp uncontrollably and swim hard, which can quickly lead to drowning.

Research by the RNLI shows 39% of people in Ireland would follow this potentially life-threatening instinct, 28% say their immediate reaction would be to swim, while 3% would panic, two of the responses the RNLI urges people to fight. Only 8% of respondents knew specifically to float or tread water.

The Respect the Water campaign is supported by the GAA through their Healthy Clubs programme. RNLI invited some of the GAA’s top athletes to their training college in Poole and to Portsmouth University to experience the effect of cold water on the body. One of those who attended was Noel Browne, Castlehaven GAA’s healthy club representative and long distance open water swimmer.

Noel recently returned from swimming from the Gibraltar Straits, a major open water swim which he completed in five hours and forty minutes.   Backing the RNLI’s Respect the Water campaign Noel said, “It can go against everything your body wants to do, but resisting the urge to fight against the water when you fall in and just float, can save your life.

“I spend hours in the water all year round. I’ve seen the effects of cold water shock on people and it can be frightening and overwhelming.  Fighting against it increases the chances of water entering the lungs and puts a strain on the heart. The best course of action is to float or rest, just for a short time. The effects of cold water shock pass within 60 to 90 seconds, you regain control of your breathing, increasing chances of survival.”

“Keeping calm will help maintain buoyancy. Moving as little as possible until you have control of your breathing will give you a much better chance of surviving until you can swim to safety, call for help, or continue to float until help arrives.”    The Respect the Water campaign runs throughout the summer in cinemas, outdoor, radio, online, and on catch-up TV channels. Cinema adverts have been voiced by Irish actor Liam Cunningham.

People can visit RNLI.org/RespectTheWater for information on the effects of cold water shock and floating techniques.