In the swim: Basic water safety tips for summer

Swimming lessonsSummertime calls for plenty of pool and beach time, along the lake or at the ocean. Keep yourself and your family safe with these water safety tips:

1)    Never swim alone, or without lifeguard supervision. Remember the opening scene in Jaws? Don’t swim at night or anyplace without a lifeguard or swim buddy (and that’s only if you’re a strong swimmer). Always play it safe and have someone watching your back in case anything happens.

2)    It’s never too soon (or too late) to learn how to swim. Teach your little ones to swim as soon as possible; most qualified swim instruction programs start at the 4- to 5-year old level. Make sure your children know the basics: treading water, holding their breath under water, and basic strokes. Never let your kids swim without you; get in the water and enjoy your time with them.

What about you? Do you know how to swim? If not, you’re not alone. According to Swimmunity, a website for new adult swimmers, as many as 50-65 percent of American adults don’t know how to swim, a statistic we find pretty shocking. Visit http://www.swimlessons.com/ or the U.S. Masters Swimming site http://www.usms.org/placswim/ for resources in your area. Make it a goal to learn to swim this year. It could save your life.

3)    “When in doubt, don’t go out.” Stay out of the water if you’re too tired/cold/sunburned/overheated/not feeling up to it. Are your kids’ lips turning blue? Take ‘em out of the pool.

4)    Don’t let it rip. Riptides aren’t really tides at all; it’s more accurate to call them rip currents or undertows. Look for sandbars before you go for a swim—they are usually an indication of a strong undertow. These unpredictable currents can be deadly for even the strongest swimmers, so pay attention to beach signs and warnings from lifeguards.

You’ve probably heard about how Heidi Klum saved her 7-year old son and two nannies from a powerful undertow in Hawai’i this past March. If you’re caught in a rip current, don’t panic: it’ll cause you to sink instead of float. Tread water, float on your back and wave for help as you float or swim parallel to the shore until you can swim to safety, out of the grip of the current. Remember, do not attempt to swim against the current (you will just get tired and you won’t get anywhere).

5)    Boaters/Water Craft: Don’t drink while operating any water craft, ever. Wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices. Kids must wear them at all times; adults if you don’t, at least have them handy so you can put them on quickly in an emergency.

Sources/useful links:

2 comprehensive MUST READS for all-around water safety:

Rip currents:

Swimmunity’s 10 Facts Every Adult Swimmer Should Know: http://swimmunity.wordpress.com/2012/03/16/stuck-in-the-process-of-learning-how-to-swim-dont-stop-ten-facts-every-adult-should-know/

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