A water safety campaign has been launched by Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, amid growing concerns over people getting into difficulties in waterways.

Linked to fears about hidden dangers, especially during hot weather, the campaign focuses on the risks people take when swimming in unsupervised areas rather than swimming pools.

Even on bright, sunny days, open water bodies can remain exceptionally cold.

Involuntarily or intentionally jumping into water can cause a cold shock response.

Deb Forder, safety manager for Oxfordshire County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service, said: "Open water can look appealing, especially on warm days, but it is also very dangerous.

"That is why the practical advice we’re offering is so important, particularly during the summer when residents are more likely to be tempted to take a dip.

"Please consider things such as letting friends and family know your route near water and what time you should return.

"Carry a whistle to draw attention if you do get into difficulties."

The sudden shock and hyperventilation caused by cold water can result in lightheadedness, disorientation, and abnormal heart rhythms, which can even lead to sudden death.

Ms Forder advises: "If you fall in, remember to relax, lean back and float (see image) until you can control your breathing."

Those who witness someone in trouble in water should immediately alert emergency services by dialling 999 or 112 and shout for help, rather than jumping in to save them.

Instead, they can throw a floating device towards the struggling swimmer.

Oxfordshire County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service points out numerous hazards that exist in reservoirs, lakes, rivers and other water bodies.

Objects lurking below the surface range from large rocks and machinery to everyday items that can cause injury.

Water bodies might look calm on the surface, but strong currents could be flowing underneath.

Regardless of someone's swimming skills, these currents can pose serious risks.

Ms Forder added: "A simple change to our behaviour can reduce the risk of drowning.

"Avoiding high risk areas, being aware of your surroundings and knowing how to react if you or someone else falls in can help save lives.

"The advice is to expect the unexpected when you’re in the water. The shock of cold water will make your muscles become weaker; you may not be able to keep yourself afloat or pull yourself out.

"Your body will shiver, which will affect your coordination and your swimming ability."

For more detailed information and advice, visit the water safety section of Oxfordshire County Council’s 365alive website.