Time spent by the water can create great memories for everyone involved; however, the potential for drowning, water borne illness, and injuries is always present. These simple safety rules can keep your family safe and having a great time.
Rules to follow always:
- Follow the buddy system! It is not just for children. Never swim alone and always have someone on shore, on board, or the side of the pool that can provide assistance from outside of the water.
- Do not run on slippery services.
- Be especially careful if you swim while injured or ill. A mild annoyance on land could turn into the potential for drowning in the water.
- Avoid the water and boating while on certain medications or while intoxicated.
- Know your surroundings. Is the water temperature safe? How deep is it? Are there drop offs?
- Know and respect your own swimming abilities. Know how far you are capable of swimming safely, as well as what depths you can manage.
- Learn what drowning looks like. Drowning is often silent and lacks the splashing and drama that we see in movies.
- Wear a waterproof sunscreen and do not forget to reapply it after swimming.
- Do not forget to take breaks and rest.
- Be careful when diving. Never dive in shallow water or water of an uncertain depth.
- Keep a phone nearby for emergency calls.
- Stay hydrated!
For more safety rules and advice, visit the CDC at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/safe-swimming-diving and National Water Safety Month at http://www.nationalwatersafetymonth.org/water-safety-tips.
Where You Swim
In addition to the above, different swimming environments can come with their own unique hazards. Here are some common issues to look for in each.
- Make sure that your pool has consistent maintenance and chemicals/chlorine on a regular basis, especially during times of heavy usage. A dirty pool does more than look unsightly. It also breeds bacteria and can cause potentially serious health problems. To learn more about potential health hazards, visit Parenting Science at http://www.parentingscience.com/swimming-pools.html.
- Limit access to the pool and make sure that the proper gate, lock, and other barriers are in place to prevent unauthorized use.
- Take a CPR course! There should always be someone by the pool whom knows basic first aid and CPR in case of emergency. CPR courses are offered in nearly all areas of the country. To find a local one, visit The American Heart Association at http://cpr.heart.org/AHAECC/CPRAndECC/FindACourse/UCM_473162_Find-A-Course.jsp.
- Do not keep electronics or electrical cords near the pool. They have the potential to cause serious and potentially fatal shocks, especially if the victim is in the water at the time.
- Make sure above ground pools are properly secured to avoid tipping. Do not overfill pools past their capacity. Follow the manufacturer instructions available for your pool type.
- Keep ladders and other pool equipment maintained to minimize accidents.
- Have a medical emergency kit located near the pool.
For more information on what you can do to keep safe around the pool, visit the Red Cross at http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/water-safety/home-pool-safety and NSC at http://www.nsc.org/learn/safety-knowledge/Pages/safety-at-home-drowning.aspx.
At Public Pools
- Shower before after the pool to minimize health risks.
- Listen to lifeguards and follow the rules provided at the pool area.
- Avoid running.
- Avoid diving in shallow areas.
- Be observant of others.
- Look for broken objects and glass.
To learn more about what you can do to stay safe at public pools, you can visit Pool Safely at http://www.poolsafely.gov/pool-spa-safety/staying-safe-pools-spas/community-swimming-pools/ or the City of Temecula http://www.cityoftemecula.org/Temecula/Residents/Aquatics/Safety/PoolSafetyataPublicPool.htm.
- Know what blue green algae is and how to avoid it. This plant is potentially toxic to swimmers. To learn more about it, visit the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources at http://dnr.wi.gov/lakes/bluegreenalgae/.
- Check for electrical hazards on and around docks before entering the water.
- Do not swim near motorboats that are on and make sure that boat captains know that you are there.
- Swim within designated areas when available.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Keep an eye out for potential dangers, such as water moccasins in the Eastern United States. You can read about the snakes at Live Science: http://www.livescience.com/43597-facts-about-water-moccasin-cottonmouth-snakes.html.
To learn more about swimming at the lake, visit Livestrong http://www.livestrong.com/article/164135-lake-swimming-safety/ or the Washington State Department of Health at http://www.doh.wa.gov/CommunityandEnvironment/WaterRecreation/LakeRiverandBeachSafety.
At the Ocean
- Know where the rip tides are. One of these can pull in even the strongest swimmers.
- Be cautious of large waves or choppy water.
- Stay within designated swimming areas when possible.
- Be aware of high and low tide.
- Do not use flotation devices. There is a danger of floating out too far.
- Avoid swimming in channels that are designated for boats and large ships. Large buoys usually mark these.
- Stay away from jellyfish and Man-of-war.
- Wear beach footwear to prevent injuries from stepping in shells and other sharp objects.
For more ways to stay safe, visit the NPS at https://www.nps.gov/caco/planyourvisit/ocean-swimming-safety.htm, Swim for Life at http://www.swimforlife.org/programs-services/drowning-prevention/ocean-safety.html, or Medical Daily at http://www.medicaldaily.com/ocean-swimming-tips-beach-safety-all-about-you-247006.
Age Specific Considerations
While everyone should follow general water safety rules, some age groups are more likely to experience drowning and other injuries related to the water.
Water Safety for Young Children and Parents
- It goes without saying, but children should be supervised at all times when near or in the water. Kids can move quickly and it only takes a few second for a drowning to occur.
- Keep distractions to a minimum. A moment looking down at your mobile device may be a moment too long.
- Children should start certified swimming lessons as soon as they are old enough to understand and follow the instructions, especially if they spend any time in a home with a pool.
- Make sure that children always wear a life jacket when on a boat.
To learn more about what you can do, visit Safe Kids at https://www.safekids.org/watersafety, the Mayo Clinic http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/child-safety/art-20044744, and Healthy Children at https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-play/Pages/Water-Safety-And-Young-Children.aspx.
Water Safety for Teens
Teens are more likely to take risks than other age groups. Make sure that they know that water safety rules still apply at all ages.
To learn about some of the potential hazards that teens face, visit http://kidshealth.org/en/teens/water-safety.html or the University of Rochester Medical Center at https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/Encyclopedia/Content.aspx?ContentTypeID=90&ContentID=P01661.
Water Safety for Senior Citizens
Spending time in the water can provide many health benefits for senior citizens. However, there are still some rules to follow!
- Senior citizens can enjoy the water, but those with health conditions should always consult a doctor first to determine if it is safe.
- Be aware of the dangers of heatstroke and make sure to find plenty of shade for rest.
- Make sure that pools have rails.
To read more about health and swimming, visit American Senior Communities http://www.ascseniorcare.com/swimming-for-seniors/.