water safety, pool safety

Water Safety Tips for Summer Vacation

June 29, 2010
by Lindsey Chapman
Dreams of spending lazy days at the lake, or stretched out on the beach will fill the minds of many this summer. By taking a few precautions, you can help ensure that your time in the water will be safe and enjoyable.

Water Safety Statistics

Water safety is a significant issue in the United States. In 2005 alone, more than 3,000 people drowned unintentionally. Children are particularly at risk during the summer months, as they head to the pool and beach with greater frequency.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “More than one in four fatal drowning victims are children 14 and younger.” Four children require medical attention for injuries on the water for every one child who dies.

Some of the most serious factors resulting in injuries are a lack of adult supervision, and “recreation in natural water settings” like lakes and oceans.

Learning to swim—at any age—is critical to staying safe in the water, whether on the lake, in the ocean or at the pool. Having this skill, and applying a few other safety precautions, can greatly reduce the dangers of the water.

Safety tips for pools

Kids may love them, but swimming pools are a hazardous place for young children to be left alone. A primary defense against keeping youngsters away from an unsupervised pool is surrounding the area by a fence at least four feet high. The American Academy of Pediatrics has also advised that gates to the pool area be self-closing and self-latching, with the latch out of the reach of children.

For children under five, the AAP recommends that adults use “touch supervision”—never being farther than arm’s reach from them.

Parents should also be aware of the less visible risks of being in the pool. In 2008, a child died in a “dry drowning” well after leaving the water. Dry drowning happens after a swimmer inhales a small amount of water into the lungs; if left untreated, the lungs are unable to fully absorb oxygen into the body.

Staying safe at the lake

In nature, supervised areas with lifeguards present are the best places to swim. The Drowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona warns, “[e]ven good swimmers can have an unexpected medical emergency in the water.”

Take a good look at the water of a pond or lake before swimming to determine whether it’s too murky, if too much plant life is present (swimmers can become tangled), or if it’s too shallow; injuries can happen quickly by diving headfirst into water that isn’t deep enough. Protective footwear can also be beneficial in keeping feet safe from sharp rocks or other dangerous objects that might be hard to spot.

Be aware of potentially dangerous drop-offs in a pond or lake, and point out safe and unsafe areas to young swimmers.

Beach and water park safety

Staying safe at the beach is a lot like staying safe in a pond or lake: supervised areas are the best places to swim.

Pay attention to instructions from lifeguards, making sure to check with them about how strong ocean waves and currents may be. Officials at some beaches use colored flags to indicate safety conditions.

Getting caught in a rip current can happen quickly, and be quite frightening, but one key to staying safe is to remain calm. Swim parallel to the shoreline until you’ve escaped the current and then return to land. Signal for a lifeguard’s help and tread water if you’re too tired to swim that far on your own.

At the water park, consider an individual’s fears and swimming abilities before going on a ride, and follow a lifeguard’s instructions to the letter. Additionally, KidsHealth reminds adults and children to observe any signs posted about a particular attraction to ensure that no height, age or health exclusions are overlooked.

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