Stay Safe in and Around the Water This Summer

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This summer, heat waves have swept over a number of states, bringing record-breaking temperatures. To stay cool, people have been flocking to the water, crowding beaches, pools, lakes, and rivers. To make sure you and your loved ones stay safe, review these swim-safety tips.

•Know each person’s skill level. It’s best if everyone knows how to swim, but that may not always be the case. There may be young children, teenagers, and even adults who don’t know how to swim. Even those who have had swim lessons may not feel like they’re strong swimmers. Those who can’t swim or aren’t strong swimmers may want to avoid going in the water. Or, if they do go in the water or are near the water, it’s important that they be closely supervised. See more on that below. They may also want to take precautions. For instance, they can wear flotation devices or coast-guard approved lifejackets. And they can stay in the shallow end of the pool or near the shore.

•Stick to lifeguard supervised swimming areas. Swim in areas that are supervised by lifeguards. Lifeguards are trained to recognize the signs of swimmers in trouble and trained to safely rescue a troubled or drowning swimmer. You may also want to use a buddy system as well, so no one swims alone. If there are young children, make sure someone keeps an eye on them at all times around the water, even when there’s a lifeguard present. Experts also recommend that someone stay within arm’s reach of young children at all times.

•Check the conditions. Lightning, thunder storms, and strong winds can all make it dangerous to swim outside. And if you’re swimming in natural bodies of water (oceans, seas, lakes, and rivers), high tides, strong currents, and big waves can make for rough, dangerous conditions. Lifeguards often designate areas with strong currents as off-limits. Make sure to follow any posted warning signs and flags. Stay within view of lifeguards. You may also want to stick close to shore. And stay out of the water if conditions are too rough.

•Don’t drink alcohol. If you’re swimming or you’re supervising others while they swim, avoid any alcohol. It can be a big distraction. It can affect your balance and coordination. And it can cloud your judgement and slow your reaction times.

•Practice sun safety. Use a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 that is water-resistant. Reapply every two hours at least. You may also want to consider a rash guard or swim shirt. You may want to seek shade when the sun is strongest. This is often between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Be extra careful around water and sand, as they can reflect the sun’s rays, and don’t forget to stay hydrated in the heat.

These tips can help you stay safe while you swim. Of these, the most important safety tip is to make sure that you and your loved ones know how to swim. If not, the best thing to do is to sign up for swim lessons. Check out http://www.redcross.org to find swim classes in your area. You can also check your local YMCA.