Swim Safe: Prevent Injuries This Summer


Summer provides perfect weather for outdoor activities.  While swimming is a favorite pastime for many, it can be a dangerous activity if proper precautions aren’t taken into consideration.  Drowning and other serious injuries happen way too often; follow these safety measures to keep yourself and your family safe this summer.

General Swim Safety

  • Make sure everyone in your family knows how to swim.  Even if parents will just be supervising from the sidelines, they need to be able to get to their child in the case of an emergency.
  • Never swim alone.  Always bring a friend or family member who can help in case of an emergency.  Or, only swim if there is a lifeguard present.
  • Always supervise young children while swimming.  Supervise means constantly watching the child, not occasionally glancing up.  Remember, it only takes a few seconds for a person to drown.  If you have to leave the swimming area, take the child with you.
  • When possible, always swim with someone who is certified in CPR and first aid.  Always have a first aid kit on hand when swimming.  If you have a backyard pool, keep CPR and first aid instructions posted nearby.
  • Don’t swim if you have a pre-exiting illness or injury.
  • If you incorporate swimming into your fitness routine, make sure you receive proper training regarding technique.  Always incorporate a warm-up and cool-down session in your workout.  And gradually increase the intensity of your workout over time to avoid injuries.

Location-Specific Precautions

Different swimming locations have different hazards.  While some of these tips may seem silly or overly protective, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Swimming at the beach

  • Only swim at beaches that are patrolled by a lifeguard.
  • Read and obey all posted safety instructions.  Consult a lifeguard if any of the expectations are unclear.
  • Don’t swim while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Never run and dive into the water.  As tides go out, the water can be shallower than you expect.
  • Wear appropriate sunscreen.  When you leave the water, consider wearing a broad-brimmed hat.
  • If you get caught in a rip tide, don’t panic.  Float with the tide and raise your arm to get the attention of a lifeguard.
  • Remember that conditions change regularly and quickly.  Be aware of your surroundings and tide levels.

Swimming in a river

  • Before getting into the water, throw a twig into the river to check how fast it’s flowing.  The current can be much stronger than it appears.  Also, note that the current is often stronger around the outside curve of a river bend.
  • When floating downstream, lie on your back and travel feet-first.  You don’t want to smash your head into an unseen object.
  • Always watch for floating branches and rubbish.  Be on the lookout for partially submerged trees and rocks.
  • Be cautious of submerged objects.  Always enter the water feet first.
  • River conditions can change rapidly.  Don’t assume an area is safe in the afternoon simply because you found it that way in the morning.
  • Riverbanks can be slippery.  They also crumble easily.  Use caution when entering and exiting the water.

Swimming in a lake

  • Be mindful of water temperatures.  The water can be much cooler beneath the surface than you think.  If you start to feel cold, get out.  Hypothermia is very dangerous and can happen under conditions much warmer than you expect.
  • Always enter the water feet first.  Remember that the bottom of a lake is soft, uneven, and changeable.
  • Wind can cause a previously calm surface to become very choppy.  The wake from passing boats can cause a disturbance as well.  Always be mindful of your surroundings and changing weather conditions.
  • Don’t let your floating raft (with you on it!) be blown too far from the shore.

Swimming in a pool

  • Always obey the posted rules and listen to the lifeguard’s instructions.
  • Never run on the pool deck.
  • Always check for other swimmers before jumping into the water.
  • Empty “kiddie” pools as soon as you are done using them.

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