Cold Water Immersion, Pathways to Drowning & Possible Interventions

Immersion in cold water represents one of the greatest environmental stresses to which the body can be exposed, and immersion is the second most common cause of accidental death in many countries of the world. However, it is a relatively “hidden” killer with many of the 1,000+ immersion-related deaths that occur each day worldwide going unnoticed. Drowning is also a “disease of youth”, 64% of deaths are < 30 years old; 25% are < 5years old.

In this presentation the physiological responses to cold water immersion will be briefly reviewed. The importance of understanding these physiological responses lies in the insight it gives to “the cause of the cause of death”; this can help target and promote interventions such as training, equipment and treatment protocols that reduce immersion deaths.

Mike Tipton, MBE, PhD, MSc, BEd (Hons), FPhysiol

Associate Head (Research) Department of Sport & Exercise Science, University of Portsmouth

Educated at the Universities of Keele and London, Professor Tipton joined the University of Surrey in 1986. After 12 years at the Robens Institute and European Institute of Health and Medical Science he moved to the University of Portsmouth in 1998. In addition to his University positions, Professor Tipton was based at the Institute of Naval Medicine (INM) from 1983 to 2004 and was Consultant Head of the Environmental Medicine Division of the INM from 1996. He has spent over 35 years researching and advising the military, industry and elite sports people in the areas of drowning and thermoregulation, environmental and occupational physiology and survival in the sea. He has published over 600 scientific papers, reports, chapters in these areas as well as the books, “The Essentials of Sea Survival” (Golden & Tipton, 2002) and “The Science of Beach Lifeguarding” (Tipton & Wooler, 2016).

Professor Tipton has been a consultant in survival and thermal medicine to the Royal Air Force and UKSport; he recently completed 10 years on the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s Medical & Survival Committee and is now a member of their Council. In 2004 he was made an Honorary Life Member of the International Association for Safety & Survival Training in recognition of his work in sea survival. Prof Tipton is a Trustee/Director of Surf Lifesaving GB. He was Senior Editor of the journals “Ergonomics”, “The International Journal of Biometeorology” and “Extreme Physiology and Medicine” and is currently Editor-in-Chief of The Physiological Society’s journal “Experimental Physiology”.Prof Tipton is a Fellow of both the Royal Society of Medicine and The Physiological Society, and has been awarded a MBE for services to physiological research in extreme environments. Prof Tipton provides advice to a range of universities, government departments, industries, medical, search and rescue and media organizations.


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