When the sun is out and the weather gets warm, people flock to the water — whether it’s the beach, lakes, rivers or a backyard pool. But wherever there’s water, there’s also danger lurking beneath the surface, even if you don’t live in an area with alligators or other threats.
That danger? Drowning. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 10 people drown every day — and two of those are children 14 or younger. And while this story is about swimming, don’t think that’s the only time you need to be vigilant. A baby can drown in just 1 inch of water, and a curious toddler can drown after falling into a toilet, bucket or even a fish tank. So keep the bathroom door closed if you have young ones at home, always supervise bath time, close toilet lids and make sure buckets are stored indoors and empty.
The biggest risk for most people comes during recreational activities around water, though. That’s why it’s so important to know how to stay safe — and help others if the need arises. Here are some general tips from the American Red Cross:
- Swim in designated areas with a lifeguard present.
- Use the buddy system — don’t swim alone.
- Don’t ever leave young children unattended, or supervised by another child.
- Teach children to ask permission before going near the water.
- Maintain constant supervision, without distractions, and have weak swimmers and young children wear Coast Guard-approved life jackets.
- Avoid alcohol or drug use during water activities.
- If a child is missing, always check the water first.
- Know CPR and other life-saving measures.
- Finally, make sure everyone in your family learns how to swim well.
Of course, not all water outings are the same, and although the tips above are a good start, different situations require different safety precautions, too.
At the pool
Among children 1 to 4 years old, most drowning deaths occur in home swimming pools — a statistic the “Pool Safely” campaign from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission aims to combat. Here are some additional tips if you have a pool, live near one or visit one often.
- Only dive or jump into a pool where signs indicate it is safe.
- Follow rules such as no diving, no running, etc.
- Know the location of life-saving equipment, such as life rings or reaching poles.
- Instruct everyone to stay away from drains — powerful suction from a pool or spa’s drain can trap and seriously injure a child or adult.
- For owners: Install a fence at least 4 feet tall, use self-closing and self-latching gates and ensure all pools and spas have compliant drain covers. Consider installing an alarm.
At the beach
According to the American Red Cross, you need different skills to swim in the ocean, so make sure you’re comfortable beforehand, and follow these guidelines:
- Before diving, check for depth and obstructions — and go in feet-first the first time.
- Watch children and elderly people closely at the beach, because waves can easily knock them off their feet.
- Beware of rip currents, which can form in any large open-water area.
- Look out for aquatic plants and animals.
Additional tips for lakes, rivers, and streams
- Always be mindful of currents, waves, and rapids, even in shallow water.
- Watch for obstacles and other hazards, including plants and animals.
- Don’t swallow the water, which can cause illness.
- Check the weather and be aware of the potential for changing conditions.
If someone is in danger in a natural setting, reach out to them using anything that can extend your reach — a pole, tree branch, even a towel. You also can throw a floating object to them for support. But typically, you shouldn’t go in yourself, as that can put you in just as much danger. Let the professionals handle water rescues.
Summer fun in and around the water is for people of all ages — just keep in mind that some people need more supervision than others, and everyone needs to keep safety in mind at all times. See you out in the sun!
Top image by Flickr user Tony Hisgett under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Image cropped and modified from original.