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Bathing water quality
Sanitary control organisation
Advices and recommendations
Water and health

What are the dangers of bathing and related activities?


Table of contents



published on 04/16/2008
Drowning can occur in the sea, lakes, ponds, artificial lakes and swimming pools. In France, drowning is the cause of over 500 deaths each year and remains the leading bathing hazard. By abiding by the following basic prevention principles, you will limit your accident risk.
  • Keep to bathing supervised areas.
  • Follow all safety instructions unfailingly.
  • Never let your children out of your sight when they play at water’s edge and never leave them alone in the water.
  • Equip your children with water-wings or a bathing suit with floaters.
  • Do not overestimate your swimming skill.
children wearing armbands
Watch out for hydrocution
child exposed to sunlight
Hydrocution is a frequent summertime accident. It occurs often when the body is immersed in water too quickly and is goes into shock, due to the overly large difference in temperature between the skin and the water. The shock can cause fainting in the water and lead to drowning.

Quelques signes peuvent précéder l'hydrocution. Il sont malheureusement trop souvent négligés. Ce sont : les maux de tête, les crampes, l'angoisse,... Devant l'apparition de l'un de ces signes, tout nageur doit se rapprocher de la plage et sortir de l'eau le plus rapidement possible.
Generally speaking, the following recommendations apply:
  • Enter the water gradually, particularly when the water is cold and you have been exposed to the sun.
  • Avoid overly-extended sun exposure.
  • Avoid bathing after consuming alcohol in excessive quantities or eating an overly large meal.
In the event of an accident, call the lifeguard services or one of the following emergency numbers
Fire: 18
Emergency Rescue: 15
European Emergency Number: 112
More information:

According to the French Health Watch Institute, from 1 June to 30 September 2004, 1163 people drowned accidentally in France, 368 of whom died because of it (32%). Children under age 6 accounted for 15% of drowning incidents (173 children, 43 of whom died as a result), though they account for only 7% of the population. In children under age 13, being left unattended (42% of drowning incidents), not knowing how to swim (34%) or a fall (30%) were the most frequently reported circumstances in drowning.
Like every year, the national campaign to prevent and inform about drowning risk is being conducted by the Minister of the Interior, the Minister of Health, the Minister of Housing, the Minister of Youth and Sports and the public and private organisations involved in bathing security and water recreational activities.
The 2005 prevention campaign is being carried out under the aegis of the National Institute for Prevention and Health Education (INPES), to reach a broad audience. Two brochures have been published, each in one million copies:
  • the one entitled “Drowning Risks: Seas, Lakes and Rivers” is entirely new and contains recommendations on three points: before, during and around bathing,
  • the second, entitled, “Protected pools, but you’ve still got to watch me”, in which the section on regulatory provisions on protection around pools has been updated.
Both of the new brochures are available for download at the INPES’ Web site ( Here are the main recommendations contained therein.
What preventive measures should be taken before entering the water?
  • Keep to supervised bathing areas. Otherwise, ensure that bathing is not prohibited or that the area is not dangerous, by seeking information about the types of waves, currents and tides present when you reach your place of stay.
  • Ensure that the bathing conditions will not become dangerous during the day, but regularly checking weather reports.
  • Tell those with you before you begin bathing. In the water, set yourself a marker on land so that you can return to your starting point.
  • Fully comply with all of the rescue workers’ instructions.
  • Never enter the water if you feel the slightest shiver or physical ailment.
What preventive measures should be taken while bathing?
  • Enter the water gradually.
  • Never leave your children alone in the water. Bathe at the same time as them so as to never let them out of your sight.
  • Be wary of buoys and other floating items (mattresses, inflatable boats, etc.); they do not provide protection from drowning.
  • Be cautious in the waves. They can be fun, but beware of their impact zone.
  • Equip your children with water wings or a bathing suit with floaters, suited to their size, whenever they are near the water.
  • Do not overestimate your own swimming level; remember that it is more difficult to swim in a natural environment than in the pool.
What is the best reaction to unexpected circumstances?
  • Do not fight the current and waves, so as to avoid exhaustion.
  • Float on your back to rest or call for help.
  • Let yourself float to whatever extent possible.
  • Try not to panic, even if you are not used to the situation.