Float to live: learn how to increase your chances of surviving in cold water | Photo: RNLI

Learn what to do if you find yourself unexpectedly in cold water for a long time.

The UK and Irish waters are cold enough to kill, even in summer. This is why the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) released a video that teaches us how to survive in extremely low temperatures.

The average water temperature in Britain and Ireland ranges between 12 and 15°C. But there are many areas in the world where cold water is a living threat.

Surfers have survived more than 24 hours stranded at sea, but sometimes not even wetsuits will save them from hypothermia.

If you're swimming in the ocean wearing only boardshorts or a bikini, and suddenly a rip current carries you away, knowing how to float and save energy might save your life.

"When you first go into cold water, you get what we call a cold shock response. That means you have uncontrollable breathing and a sudden increase in the work of the heart," explains Mike Tipton, professor at the University of Portsmouth.

So, what do you do if you find yourself in cold water?

"We have to fight that natural urge to thrash about or swim hard. It's much safer to relax and try and float for about the minute to 90 seconds it takes for the cold shock to disappear." 

"So during that period of floating, your body will regain control of its breathing. It will regain control of your heart rate, and you'll start to think straight. You can start planning your next move," Tipton continues.

"Most people can float, but you may have to do a little treading of water. But the important thing is: don't wait and find out in an accident. Go to your pool. Go and practice. Cold water shock is a big killer."

Here's what you should do if you fall unexpectedly in the water:

1. Fight your instinct to panic or swim hard;
2. Lean back in the water to keep your airway clear;
3. Push your stomach up, extending your arms and legs;
4. Gently move your hands and feet to help you float;
5. In 60-90 seconds, you'll be able to control your breathing;