With pools and beaches filling up for spring break and summer vacation, hundreds of thousands of people will be jumping into the water for the first time in months. While going for a swim is fun and relaxing, it can also be dangerous, especially for inexperienced swimmers. To help you and your family stay safe this season, we’ve put together these ten water safety tips every swimmer should know.
Test the Waters
Swimming in cold water significantly increases the risk of drowning, especially when you jump in all at once. When you’re submerged in cold water, your body heat quickly drops, and you’ll find yourself shivering, hyperventilating, and struggling to think straight. At the same time, your blood pressure will decrease, meaning less oxygen is going to your muscles, making it extremely difficult to move in water and increasing the likelihood of drowning.
If you suspect the water is too cold, you should gradually ease yourself in, starting with your feet. If you get up to your waist and it’s still too cold, it may be best to pack up and try again another day.
Don’t Drink and Dive
Alcohol and swimming don’t mix. When you’re intoxicated, walking straight can be hard enough. Swimming, even with low blood alcohol content (BAC), can be challenging and disorienting. Additionally, alcohol causes temperature fluctuations in your body, which will make you feel warm at first but will quickly cause your muscles to contract, similar to jumping into cold water.
It is also important to avoid alcohol while supervising swimming children. If a child is in trouble, you must be prepared to save them, something you can’t do if there’s alcohol in your system.
Jump in Feet First
Diving or belly-flopping into shallow water is extremely dangerous. If the water isn’t deep enough to slow you down, you could hit your head on the bottom or suffer other serious injuries.
Typically, a depth of 8ft is considered safe for diving. Even then, you should only dive in designated diving areas.
Overexerting yourself dramatically increases your risk of drowning, especially in colder temperatures. If you feel drowsy or hungry, or you start shivering while in the water, it’s time to get out and take a break to refuel your body.
Stay Away From Breath-Holding Games
Children are especially prone to breath-holding games, contests to see who can stay underwater the longest. When swimmers indulge in these ‘games,’ they are putting themselves at risk of drowning, even if they are otherwise strong swimmers.
It’s a two-prong problem. The first issue is that some swimmers go beyond their comfort zone and will hold their breaths until their lungs are burning and they fall unconscious, which can cause their lungs to fill with water and may cause brain damage more quickly since they were already deprived of oxygen.
The second issue is that when someone falls unconscious during a breath-holding game, the other participants may not realize that person is in danger and may lose precious seconds that could have prevented drowning or other severe injuries.
Therefore, it’s best to avoid these activities entirely and educate young swimmers about the dangers of breath-holding and drowning.
Don’t Swim Alone
Generally, you should avoid swimming alone, even if you have your own home pool. Both experienced and inexperienced swimmers can fall victim to a drowning incident without warning, and if you don’t have a buddy nearby to help, you may be unable to rescue yourself.
Reach, Throw, Don’t Go
If someone is panicking in the water, yelling and splashing, the Red Cross suggests that you should not jump in to save them unless you are a trained lifeguard. When someone panics in the water, they will grab onto anything they can reach and will attempt to put what they grab under themselves to get over the waterline. If you’re not a trained lifeguard and you jump in to save a panicked swimmer, they may very well pull you down and put both of you in danger of drowning.
Instead of jumping in, find a floatation device or other buoyant object and attach it to a rope. Throw it close to the victim and tell them to grab onto it. Once they have a grip, reel the device in and help the victim out of the water. If they are close to the edge of the pool, it may be faster to reach out a hand or a leg for them to grab on to.
Enroll Your Child in Swim Lessons
Learning to swim at a young age (1-4) dramatically decreases the risk of a drowning incident later in life. When children learn how to move naturally in the water and understand pool safety, they’re better prepared to deal with emergencies.
Most importantly, when young swimmers are taught basic water safety, they’re more likely to follow the rules and avoid putting themselves in dangerous situations, like diving in shallow water.
Give Inexperienced Swimmers a Life Jacket
Whether you’re taking your child to the pool or you’re learning to swim for the first time, it’s crucial that new and inexperienced swimmers wear a proper life jacket. A life jacket will help prevent drowning and keep the swimmer’s head above water if they begin to panic or struggle.
Equally important as using a life jacket is recognizing devices that claim to be safe but are not safety certified. Pool noodles and water wings may claim to keep swimmers safe, but they are incapable of keeping someone’s head above the water in an emergency, making them a liability at best.
Accidents happen, even when you follow best practices at the pool, and you should be ready to respond promptly. By attending a day of training and earning your CPR certification, you can know how to help stabilize a drowning victim until paramedics arrive.
When it comes to water safety, knowing CPR and being prepared to act could be the difference between life and death.If you or someone you love suffered serious injuries while swimming, we are here for you. If you’d like to schedule a free case consultation with an experienced Atlanta personal injury attorney from Goldstein Hayes & Lina, LLC, please don’t hesitate to call (888) 425-6070 or send us an email.