The Irish Coast Guard and RNLI have issued a plea to swimmers to take care when in open water.

They warn of the dangers of swimming in particular at this time of the year, which comes as the number of call outs to open water swimmers has increased.

In a joint statement this morning, the organisations say over the past few weeks there has been a noted increase in the number of incidents in relation to open water swimming.

Over the past week alone, eight separate incidents arose in the Dublin/Wicklow area, with a number of other incidents being reported around the country. 

They say most people who participate in open water swimming do so safely but some, and in particular those  new to the sport, may be unaware of important safety measures that can help them avoid getting into difficulty.

They say it has resulted in increased demands being placed the Coast Guard and RNLI.

Coast Guard Head of Operations Gerard O'Flynn said: "At the outset we are grateful that anybody who sees someone in trouble or thinks they may be in trouble, dials 112 and alerts the Coast Guard.

"Seasoned open water swimmers have a great deal of experience and do observe proper safety precautions. However the dangers this time of the year far outweigh the challenges that apply in summer time".

RNLI Water Safety Lead Kevin Rahill says: "Cold water and currents can tire a swimmer quickly and make it harder to return to shore.

"Lifeboat crews are seeing a lot more call outs to people who are taking part in water based activities by themselves and while it is great to enjoy our beautiful waters, this time of year, the water temperature drops and of course it is dark for longer."

They are advising people to:

  • Always check the weather forecast and understand the local effects of wind, tides and currents.
  • Never swim alone and have somebody ashore who is familiar with your plans and ideally can observe your progress.
  • Only swim in sheltered areas with which you are familiar and swim parallel to the shore.
  • Ensure that you are visible from the shore. Wear a brightly coloured swim cap or use a tow float to increase your visibility in the water.
  • Wearing a wetsuit is advisable to help stay warm.
  • Slowly acclimatise to cold water to reduce the risk of cold water shock.
  • Get warmed up afterwards. Wrap up well in extra layers of clothing
  • If in doubt, don’t go out!
  • Tell someone else where you're going and when you are due back.

If you see somebody in trouble or think they are in trouble dial 112 and ask for the Coast Guard.