Be aware of cold water shock in Tenerife

Update 6 November: Emergency services were called shortly after 2pm this afternoon with reports of a disappearance in the sea in the playa de Los Patos area of Puerto de la Cruz. Sadly, lifeboat crews discovered a man’s body which they took back to the harbour in the town. The man was a German of 50 or so years of age who only arrived in Tenerife yesterday.

Update 31 March: A 55-year-old man is critically ill this evening after suffering a heart attack while swimming at Playa de las Américas. Emergency services were called at 6.14pm with reports that a person was in difficulties in the sea, and once paramedics had confirmed that he was in cardiac arrest, they started resuscitation attempts which were mercifully successful. Once the bather was stabilized, he was transferred to Hospitén Sur where he remains seriously ill, but alive.

Update 22 March: A 74-year-old German bather died today at Playa El Bobo on the Costa Adeje. Emergency services were called shortly before 3pm with reports that the poor man had been pulled unconscious from the water, but despite efforts of lifeguards and paramedics, he was in cardiac arrest and all resuscitation efforts were fruitless. He was declared dead at the scene.

Update 19 March: If ever the value of the Arona lifeguards was on display it is with the successful resuscitation earlier today of an Irish woman in her 60s at Playa del Camisón. Emergency services were called shortly after midday with reports that the woman had been pulled unconscious out of the water by the lifeguards and was in cardiac arrest. When paramedics arrived they took up the lifeguards’ own efforts and managed to resuscitate her. She was transferred to Hospitén Sur where she remains in critical condition, but alive.

Update 11 January 2013: The body of a 60-year-old woman was found at midday today in the sea at Playa Fañabé. The beach lifeguard recovered the body from the sea and brought it into Puerto Colon in an inflatable craft, but emergency services, which were already there waiting, were sadly unable to do any more than confirm the poor woman’s death at the scene.

date 16 November: Emergency services have resuscitated a 70-year-old Finnish woman who was pulled unconscious from the water at 3pm this afternoon at Playa del Camisón in Playa de las Américas. Paramedics mercifully managed to bring her back to life and having stabilized her, transferred her to Hospitén Sur where she remains in critical condition, but alive.

Update 8 November: Emergency services have resuscitated a 68-year-old man who was pulled unconscious from the water just after midday in La Caleta. Paramedics mercifully managed to bring him back to life and having stabilized him, transferred him to Hospitén Sur where he remains in critical condition, but alive.

Update 21 October: A 70-year-old man said to be a foreigner drowned shortly before 4pm this afternoon at Playa Honda in Playa de Las Américas. Emergency services received a call to say that the poor soul had been pulled unconscious from the water and that fellow bathers were trying to resuscitate him. Their efforts were sadly unsuccessful, and on their arrival, paramedics were also unable to do anything for him and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Update 19 October: A  56-year-old man drowned at 2pm this afternoon at Playa de las Teresitas in Santa Cruz.  The poor soul was pulled from the water and emergency services were called, but despite prolonged attempts to resuscitate him, paramedics could not bring him back to life and he was pronounced dead at the scene. Please be aware of the risks of cold water shock in Tenerife waters.

Update 2pm: Within just two hours of the rescue at El Médano below, there has been another incident, this time tragically fatal, in Playa del Cangrejillo in El Sauzal, north Tenerife. It was at 2.40 this afternoon that a 45-year-old man was found floating in the water,  and emergency services were called while he was pulled onto the beach by a local policeman and a fellow bather. Paramedics could do no more, however, than confirm his death.

Original post 4 October: I’ll keep posting these in the hope that the message gets through in the end. HERE is a search on this website for stories about drownings or near drownings on Tenerife beaches. There are far too many of them. The last one, just the other day, ended in tragedy because despite initially being resuscitated at the scene, the poor man died shortly after arriving at hospital.

Now today, there has been another resuscitation after a 70-year-old man, said to be a foreign holidaymaker, nearly drowned in El Médano at 12.45 this lunchtime. Emergency services were called out with reports that lifeguards had pulled the man unconscious from the water; between their efforts and those of the paramedics who attended the scene, he was stabilized and then transferred to Candelaria hospital where he remains critically ill, but alive.

People seem not to realize, or simply forget, that cold water shock can affect people even with water temperature of up to 25º. It’s not just freezing water that is dangerous, and scuba diving specialists say that the Canaries’ water temperature doesn’t get above 24°C (75°F) even in August. People sunbathe and then go in the water where they can get into difficulties within five minutes. Some have a sensitivity to “cold” water, and this increases with age, which might account for why so many of these fatalities or near fatalities are middle aged or older. Even those who have no such sensitivity as such can produce one by alcohol. Please have a quick look at THIS or THIS, which are typical of many such professional level websites giving advice on cold water shock. As the second link says, “normal body temperature of course, is 98.6.  Shivering and the sensation of cold can begin when the body temperature lowers to approximately 96.5.  Amnesia can begin to set in at approximately 94, unconsciousness at 86 and death at approximately 79 degrees”, This is 4º above our normal high season water temperatures.”Let’s try to cut the numbers down in Tenerife because this happens year after year.


  1. Where is the scientific evidence for this ”cold water” shock or sensitivity- I have never heard of such a thing – It could be that these folks are having cardiac arrests while swimming, which has nothing to do with the water temperature.

  2. Author

    Please have a look at the links in the post above. Cardiac arrests are caused by cold water shock.

  3. Hi Janet, I have heard of cold water shock but didn’t realise exactly how many incidents are occurring here in Tenerife. It’s absolutely tragic and i feel for the families of those that have lost their lives so far. My partner (67) and i (64) were going to hire a boat in Los Gigantes with the intention off diving off it into the beautiful clear water, away from the shore. However, after reading all these tragic stories of people getting into difficulty, suffering cardiac arrest and sadly losing their lives, i think i can safely say that your information might well have saved our lives. For that i thank you as, without this information, we would have implemented our plan. Keep up the good work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.