On sudden unexpected immersion in cold
water 15 degrees celsius or lower, there is an
uncontrollable gasping for breath followed by severe
hyperventilation (rapid breathing). This on its own
can cause small muscle spasms and drowning.
Wearing a lifejacket during the unexpected immersion is critically important to keeping you afloat and breathing. Death from cold-water shock is not uncommon.
Recovery of the victim from the water should be attempted as quickly as possible. Handle the victim gently to avoid cardiac arrest.
The victim should minimize movement while in the water and adopt a fetal position with legs together and knees raised, with arms to the side, or folded across the chest to prolong survival time.
Once out of the water, the victim should be treated the same as a hypothermia victim. See the next topic, Hypothermia.