Whether you’re heading to the beach, the river, or the neighborhood pool, it’s important to know the basics of water safety. According to the American Red Cross, drowning is the leading cause of death for children, and the CDC lists it as the fifth most common cause of unintentional injury death in the United States. Luckily, drowning is highly preventable. Use these tips to stay safe in the water all summer.
Learn to swim. Having basic swimming skills is an important part of any water safety plan. Age-appropriate swimming lessons for children may be available at your local rec center or YMCA. Private and group lessons for adults are offered at the same places. You don’t need to be an Olympic swimmer to be water safe! The Red Cross recommends mastering the following five skills:
- Enter water that’s over your head, then return to the surface
- Float or tread water for at least one minute
- Turn over and turn around in the water
- Swim at least 25 yards
- Exit the water
Buddy up. No one should swim alone, even adults and good swimmers. This goes double for children. If you’re not able to swim with your child, make sure another adult with strong swimming skills is with them. Always swim in a lifeguarded area, and never take your eyes off of your child while they are in the water whether or not a lifeguard is present.
Protect yourself. Children and weak swimmers of any age should wear Coast Guard-approved life jackets for all water activities. If you’re going to be on a boat or doing water sports, you should wear a life jacket regardless of your swimming ability. The Coast Guard’s guidelines for choosing a life jacket are available online.
Keep a clear head. The CDC estimates that up to 70% of drowning deaths involve alcohol use. Although it can be fun to have a drink outside on a nice summer day, the combination of heat and dehydration can amplify the effects of alcohol and leave you more impaired than usual. When you know you’re going to be on the water, keep your beverages nonalcoholic. Some prescription medications can cause impaired judgment too, so be mindful of their effects and stay away from the water if you’re not feeling like yourself.
Be prepared. Even if you follow all of these steps, accidents can happen. Make sure you and your child know:
- How to call for help
- The meaning of warning flags on the beach
- How to protect yourself in an undertow or rip current
- To stay away from pool drains and suction fitting, which can trap you underwater
Be aware of the weather forecast and seek shelter if it storms. Never swim during a thunderstorm. Water conducts electricity, so if you are in the water when lightning strikes, your risk of injury or death increases significantly.
If you aren’t certified in CPR, take a class. They are offered at in-person locations throughout the state, as well as online. It’s a useful skill to have, and you never know when you’re going to need it.
Have a great time on the water!