It’s (almost) everyone’s favorite time of year; vacations, BBQ’s, beach trips and pool parties. That’s right, it’s summer! And it’s right around the corner. With that in mind we are doing a series of articles on summer safety to help you and your family enjoy the best summer has to offer without suffering the worst of consequences.
The safest way to swim
Every year, thousands of people drown while playing in pools, oceans, lakes and ponds. According to the CDC, more than 1 in 5 of those people are kids under the age of 14 (and for every 1 that dies, 4 others are given emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries). To avoid putting yourself or your children at risk, here are some basic tips:
• Learn how to swim: This seems like common sense, but plenty of people hang out in the shallow end of the pool or staying knee deep in the ocean without really knowing how to swim (one accidental fall into the deep end or one big wave knocking you over is all it can take). If you or your kids are inexperienced swimmers, coast guard approved life vests should be worn.
• Don’t let your kids swim unsupervised: Sometimes when we are feeling relaxed, we take our eyes off of our kids for just a few minutes to read, play on our phones or chat with friends. While these are all innocent actions, it only takes one minute for your child to go under without your notice. Entrusting other children to “watch” your child is not a great idea; they may not know what to do in case of an emergency, or may be too immersed in their own play to notice immediately if your child is in danger. Even if you’re in a guarded area, lifeguards are not a substitute for the supervision of a parent or guardian.
• Avoid use (or overuse) of alcohol: We all love to indulge in a cocktail or two we are on “vacation time;” however, one of the biggest threats to water safety is alcohol use. Whether you’re out on the fishing boat, taking a dip off the beach or hanging by the pool, alcohol and swimming just don’t mix. Not only does it increase risk-taking behaviors, alcohol also impairs your vision, depth perception, reaction time and coordination (hurting your ability to swim effectively).
• Follow posted swimming rules at pools and beaches: Most public pools or pool clubs have rules posted on their fences and near lifeguards to make it easy for swimmers to follow. However, when you’re at the beach, you’ll need to pay attention to the colored flags they have posted. Each flag color represents how safe the waters are, usually indicating if there are rip tides, choppy waters or if the seas are safe to play (the color code will usually be by the beach entrance). They will also blow their whistle if they feel you’ve gone out too far or if they notice shark or dolphin activity nearby. Keep your eyes and ears open for warnings from lifeguards to ensure you aren’t the next person they need to rescue.
• No running or roughhousing: I’m not a big fan of roughhousing in any situation, but in this instance it can turn a fun afternoon with friends into ice packs and ER trips. Areas near water are almost always slick (pool edges, boat edges), and if you slip you can easily break bones or cause concussions (if not worse). Even in shallow areas of the ocean, if you fall awkwardly you can hit your head on rocks, coral or have the wind knocked out of you while beneath the water.
Keeping cool in the heat by swimming can be some of the most fun you’ll have all summer. By following these few simple rules you can ensure that you and your kids enjoy your water play without risk of drowning or other injury. For more information on keeping your swim time safe, check out The American Red Cross’s water safety page.