There’s nothing like swimming to cool off on a hot summer day. Whether you’re taking a dip in the pool or enjoying a day at the beach, the American Red Cross wants you to be safe. Here are some steps you can take to enjoy your summer water fun.
Pool Safety Ideally, you should learn to swim before enjoying the water. While at the pool:
- Swim in designated areas supervised by lifeguards. Always swim with a buddy; do not allow anyone to swim alone.
- Have young children or inexperienced swimmers wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets around water, but do not rely on life jackets alone.
- Have appropriate equipment, such as reaching or throwing equipment, a cell phone, life jackets and a first aid kit.
- Know how and when to call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.
- Enroll in Red Cross water safety and first aid and CPR courses to learn how to respond.
With children, constant supervision is key:
- If you have a pool, secure it with appropriate barriers. Many children who drown in home pools were out of sight for less than five minutes and in the care of one or both parents at the time.
- Never leave a young child unattended near water, and do not trust a child’s life to another child; teach children to always ask permission to go near water.
- Avoid distractions when supervising children around water.
- If a child is missing, check the water first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability.
Beach Safety Swimming in the ocean takes different skills, so before you get your feet wet, it’s best to learn how to swim in the surf. You should also swim only at a lifeguard-protected beach, within the designated swimming area. Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards.
While you’re enjoying the water, keep alert and check the local weather conditions. Make sure you swim sober and that you never swim alone. And even if you’re confident in your swimming skills, make sure you have enough energy to swim back to shore.
Other tips to keep in mind:
- No one should use a floatation device unless they are able to swim. The only exception is a person wearing a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
- Don’t dive headfirst—protect your neck. Check for depth and obstructions before diving, and go in feet first the first time.
- Pay especially close attention to children and elderly persons when at the beach. Even in shallow water, wave action can cause a loss of footing.
- Keep a lookout for aquatic life. Water plants and animals may be dangerous. Avoid patches of plants. Leave animals alone.
Rip Currents Rip currents are responsible for deaths on our nation’s beaches every year, and for most of the rescues performed by lifeguards. For your safety, be aware of the danger of rip currents and remember the following:
- If you are caught in a rip current, swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current. Once you are free, turn and swim toward shore. If you can't swim to the shore, float or tread water until you are free of the rip current and then head toward shore.
- Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist near these structures.
Protection from the Sun Be kind to your skin! Limit the amount of direct sunlight you receive between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and wear sunscreen with a protection factor of at least 15.
Remember to drink plenty of water regularly, even if you’re not thirsty. Avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine in them.
Protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses that will absorb at least 90 percent of UV sunlight. And don’t forget your feet! The sand can burn your feet and glass and other sharp objects can cut them.
Basking in the rays can be nice, but watch for signs of heat stroke—hot, red skin; changes in consciousness; rapid, weak pulse; rapid, shallow breathing.
If you suspect someone is suffering from heat stroke:
- Call 9-1-1 and move the person to a cooler place.
- Quickly cool the body by applying cool, wet cloths or towels to the skin (or misting it with water) and fanning the person.
- Watch for signs of breathing problems and make sure the airway is clear. Keep the person lying down.
As the temperatures soar, more and more of us will take to the water for some summer fun. For more information on Red Cross swim courses, or on how to keep you and your loved ones safe this summer, visit www.redcross.org.