A SEVERE warning is being given to Halton children and young people not to take an impromptu dip in open water this summer.

Drowning causes more that 400 UK deaths every year and is the third highest cause of death in children.

Firefighters who are often called to these incidents want to prevent youngsters across Runcorn and Widnes becoming victims of such accidents.

Alex Waller, Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service’s head of service delivery said: “We want people to enjoy summer. However, we also want people to do it safely.

“Sadly, each year people die swimming in open water. Firefighters and other emergency services also risk their own safety to rescue people who get into difficulties on our waterways.

“Our advice is to only ever swim outdoors as part of organised open water swimming club. Don’t let a cooling dip be the last thing you ever do.

“Please follow our advice to stay safe this summer.”

He said cooling off in rivers, canals, ponds, quarries and lakes may seem great fun but it can have deadly consequences.

Risks include the cold water causing a swimmers body to shut down, or the onset of cramp which can leave a person unable to continue.

Certain waterways can also have strong undercurrents or underwater debris that can prove fatal. These conditions can affect anyone, even an experienced open water swimmer.

Firefighters have issued the following advice:

• Only swim as part of an organised group.

• Never go swimming alone.

• Ensure you stay clear of boats and canoes to avoid accidents.

• Never drink alcohol before swimming.

• Know your limits – the cold can kill.

• Don’t ignore the safety signs – it could cost you your life.

For more information about water safety visit cheshirefire.gov.uk.