According to the CDC, ten people die from unintentional drowning every 24 hours. On average, two of these drownings involve children aged 14 and under. So, while beaches, pools, and even rivers can prove to be a fun family outing, they can also become dangerous. It is imperative for you and your family to be aware of how to stay safe while swimming.
One of the best ways to ensure you and your family are staying safe while swimming is to invest in lessons while also learning how to identify the best conditions for swimming.
If you and your family understand how to swim, and know the best conditions for swimming (ex. the presence of a lifeguard, and if the weather is unfavorable), then you all are half way there. However, there are additional factors that play into swim safety. Read on for our tips to make sure you and your family have a safe and successful swimming experience.
Take a Swim Class
As mentioned above, if hitting the beach or enjoying a day at the pool is a regular activity for your family, investing in swim classes is essential. A trained professional can teach you and your family basic swimming techniques, how to handle specific bodies of water, and even how to help someone else who may be in trouble.
You want to ensure that your family is aware of how to properly swim. Accidents do happen, and someone in your family could fall into a pool or find themselves separated from you at a beach. You want them to be able to survive until help arrives.
When searching for swim classes, be sure to enroll everyone in age-appropriate courses and ones that emphasize the importance of swim safety.
You should also take a course in CPR and first-aid. Unfortunately, it only takes a second for a severe swimming accident to occur. You want to be ready in case someone in your family has become a victim of drowning.
Safety-Proof Your Pool
While you may not be visiting the beach, it is still crucial to be mindful of what can go wrong concerning your home pool. It is easy to have a false sense of security at home, but a pool in your backyard can bring just as many dangerous scenarios.
If you have a pool at your home, you should ensure that it is surrounded by a barrier or fence that is at least four feet tall all the way around. You also want to make sure that the only way to get to it is through a self-latching gate that is out of reach of children.
Also, never allow children to access the pool unattended. Again, two of the ten drownings that occur each day are to children under the age of 14. So, teach children that the home pool is off-limits unless an adult is outside with them. You may want to consider installing a pool alarm that goes off when anyone enters the pool area.
While it is important to secure the area around a pool, it is also imperative to address what is inside it. For example, be sure always to regulate the chemical levels and filtration of the pool water. Bacteria can quickly grow in unattended pools, and this could result in rashes and serious diseases for those who enter the water.
Pay Attention to the Weather and Water Conditions
The weather can quickly transform a safe outing into one of danger. If you are planning to visit a natural body of water like a beach or river, be sure to check for these conditions:
- Strong winds
- Heavy rain or thunder
- Pollution levels
Regardless of where you are, if the weather or water conditions begin to change suddenly, exit the water area immediately.
It also helps to become aware of the various flags or signals used at beaches. Many will signify tide activity, or warn of unsafe conditions. Make sure that you and your family learn these signs so you can properly follow instructions.
Make a point to not swim in any bodies of water after a severe rainstorm, as this is a way for bacteria to spread quickly.
Also, take a moment to educate yourself and your family on the dangers of rip tides. Riptides and rip currents occur when the water pulls you away from the shore.
These can happen without warning. The way to escape them is to swim parallel to the shore until you are out of it. So, be sure your family knows what these events are, and how to get out of one if they occur.
Properly Prepare to Swim
Before you go out for a day of swimming, there are some things you should do to protect yourself.
The first is that you should avoid any alcohol before swimming. Drinking alcoholic beverages can disorient you and cloud your judgment while you are swimming.
Second, take a shower with soap before stepping into the water. Showering before you get into the water will prevent bacteria and chlorine from latching onto your skin.
Third, protect your skin from the sun. Even though you may be in the water, sun rays can extend into it. Also, the water reflects sunlight, so you have a greater chance of being exposed to even more sun rays.
To avoid unhealthy exposure to the sun, wear sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15. Be sure to take the sunscreen with you so you can apply it as you swim and sweat throughout the day.
Fourth, establish rules with children before you arrive at your destination. Talk with them about the importance of the following:
- Teach them to practice safe behaviors while swimming. For example, direct them only to swim when an adult is around, to have a swim buddy, walk on wet surfaces, avoid diving, and stay in view at all times.
- Advise them to watch the weather. Teach children to watch out for thunder, lightning, storm clouds, and high winds. Help them to understand why these conditions are dangerous, and what to do if they see them.
- Tell them about the role of the lifeguard. The lifeguard is there to ensure they have a safe swimming experience. So, if they are unable to find you, direct them to go to a lifeguard if anyone is in trouble.
Lastly, bring a life jacket. Even if you and your family are experienced swimmers, conditions can change in an instant. A reliable floatation device can ensure everyone remains above water and is easy to locate.
The more you prepare your children and family of what to expect, the more they can practice safety while they swim.
Practice Safety While Swimming (And Encourage Everyone Else to Do So)
Again, the first thing everyone should do before swimming is attending a class for basic swimming techniques. However, there is more to staying safe at the beach or pool beyond actual swimming. It is easy to let down the defenses, and throw caution to the wind while having fun, but it is important to still be aware of the potential dangers.
For example, you and your family should avoid diving headfirst into any bodies of water. The water may be more shallow than you intended, or there may be rocks or other objects the can prove dangerous.
If there is a diving board, avoid it unless you have gone over diving safety with a swimming instructor.
You should also avoid any running or participating in horseplay around a pool or body of water. You can easily hurt yourself or someone else since the surfaces are wet.
Also, even as an adult, it is dangerous to swim alone under any circumstances. Even if you are a good swimmer, accidents can happen. Always have someone around to help you if a disaster were to occur.
If you are bringing children along, designate someone to be a “watcher.” An adult should always have an eye on the kids. So, you and all the adults in your party should take turns watching out for the children.
Know how to Tell if Someone is Drowning
It isn’t always easy to identify if someone is in trouble, but these signs can help you detect if someone is drowning. While you may think that someone will yell or flail their arms, most drownings are quick and silent.
If someone is unable to keep their head above water and is not responding to your calls, there is a good chance they are drowning. This person does not have enough oxygen to call out for help. So, locate a lifeguard immediately, and stand by to help in any way you can.
There are times where someone will be able to call out; fortunately, these are easier to see and address. So, keep an eye out for the individuals who are quiet, and are having a difficult time staying above the surface.
Swimming can be a fun activity, but there are certain precautions you should take to ensure you and your family enjoy a fun day at the pool (or beach). These steps can hopefully help you address and prepare for some of the common dangers that can occur while swimming.