Let’s get real people. This is serious and I hope that you will take your time to read this post. Summer is fast approaching for those living in the Southern Hemisphere. Summer is a time for parties and fun in the sun. Soon most of us will be splashing in the pool, going to the beach or going camping near a river or dam. But trying to think of all the possibilities to keep cool; are we giving a thought to water safety.
Summer is also a time when beaches, picnic spots and public pools get crowded. Being oblivious to water safety can lead to tragedy. Not that there is no risk any other season but it’s higher in summer. Drowning is the leading cause of unnatural death in children. Those who survive a drowning incident are often left traumatised or have permanent brain damage.
There is this misconception that babies are born with the natural ability to swim. This natural ability comes from certain reflexes that will aid them in the water but these will diminish before 6 months. Enrolling your baby for swimming lessons is great as it encourages a love for water. However, bear in mind they are not yet at an age where they will comprehend how to do different strokes. Therefore an adult should always hold a baby when in the water. Besides a big swimming pool, infants and toddlers can drown in a bath, bucket, small plastic pool or toilet if left unattended.
Both my daughters only learnt how to swim at the age of 4. They are pretty good and confident swimmers but we are still cautious and won’t leave them unattended. In all honesty, I am not a big fan of pool parties where there are no adult supervision. Children often play all kinds of games and accidents can happen so quickly. Although my daughters are good at swimming and are equipped with the necessary skills; swimming in a pool remains different to swimming in the ocean or river.
While children are at a higher risk, adults can drown too. Drownings happen in a matter of sections whether in a swimming pool or open water. But drownings are preventable. Go for swimming lessons, you are never too old to learn. Enroll for first aid and CPR training. Have a first aid kit nearby. Know the emergency numbers off hand.
Make sure your children are aware of certain boundaries when it comes to water safety precautions. Here are some water safety tips for yourself and your children.
Water safety around the pool
Swimming pools at home should be fenced with a childproof lockable gate or covered with a safety net. Portable swimming pools should also have safety covers. Remove all above ground steps and ladders when nobody is swimming. If you go to a public swimming pool, make sure to keep a close eye on your children when it is overcrowded. If at a public pool, make sure that there are life guards on duty. Note that although life guards are on duty, they are not responsible to keep an eye on your child as they need to oversee the whole pool area.
It is important that an adult who can swim, supervise the children. Supervise actively, avoid being distracted by being on your phone or chatting to other adults. Never trust an older child to look after younger ones.
Running on slippery pool surfaces should be prohibited. Don’t assume that when your child has floaties or a pool noodle, he/she is safe and drownproof. These are only swimming aids but can not prevent drowning. Also make sure your child wears the appropriate size. Limit the amount of toys that is in the pool. Some of these toys might sink to the bottom and children will try to go underwater trying to retrieve it.
It is important that your child knows how to get out of the pool. Children who cannot swim should not be allowed in the water unless they are accompanied by an adult who can swim. If your child can do the basic doggy paddle, that is not swimming. If you cannot swim, make sure an adult who can swim is in the water to assist the child.
Water safety at the beach
The ocean can be rough and dangerous and not all beaches are suitable for swimming. Know when it is high tide and low tide. Check the weather forecast before going to the beach and avoid going during gale-force winds or thunderstorms. Pay attention to beach warning flags and obey these flags and signs. If the sign indicates swimming is prohibited, please adhere to the rules. Red flags signal strong currents and dangerous to swim. Sometimes the beach will be closed. Yellow flags indicates moderate current, the water can be rough but not dangerous. Green flags signal that the water is calm and safe to swim. White flags with a shark diagram signals that there are sharks in the water.
In summer beaches are usually overcrowded, therefore always keep an eye on your children and supervise actively. Use waterproof tags to tag them for safety and security reasons. Swim where there are lifeguards on duty. Never swim on your own.
Waves don’t always break evenly and causes circulation in the water which leads to rip currents. Even if you are a good swimmer, you can so easily get into danger. Stay calm and never try to swim against the current. Signal for help by lifting your arm. Swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current. Once you feel you are not carried further out into the sea; swim diagonally across.
Take along vinegar to the beech to treat jelly fish stings and a flask with hot water and latex gloves to treat blue bottle stings. Vinegar’s high acidity deactivates the nematocytes of the jelly fish. After dabbing on vinegar scrape off the jellyfish tentacles with a flat sea shell and apply more vinegar. Note that blue bottle stings are not treated the same as that of jelly fish stings. So please do not use vinegar for a blue bottle sting. Instead rather rinse the area off with hot water (water need to be at a comfortable temperature) to reduce the pain of the blue bottle sting. Once rinsed off, apply gloves and remove the tentacles.
Water safety in the river, lake or dam
Always make sure that swimming is permitted in the river, dam or lake. After heavy rain, Inland water can change rapidly and rivers often have strong currents. Check river or stream conditions by throwing a stick in the water. By doing this you will be able to see how fast the water is moving. Check the temperature of the water as icy cold water can cause hypothermia.
Swimming in a river, lake or dam is much harder than swimming in a pool. Lifeguards very seldom patrol rivers, lakes and dams. Wear a life jacket when swimming in a river, lake or dam. Never dive into a river, lake or dam. Submerged branches and rocks are often invisible from the surface due to murky water. Making it dangerous for diving as injuries can occur. You can easily be swept of your feet with a strong current especially if the river surface is slippery and uneven.
Don’t allow children to play on river banks. Don’t let children swim alone or without any adult supervision. Always make sure to test the surface when entering the river, lake or dam. When going on a boat, canoe, paddle boat or rafting, make sure that you wear a life jacket.
Water safety and alcohol consumption
Therefore it is important not to consume alcohol before swimming as this contributes to drowning. Adults consuming alcohol don’t just place a higher risk on their own lives, they risk that of their children too. With alcohol consumption comes disorientation, lack of concentration and not giving your full attention to your children who are in the water. Alcohol impairs your reaction time to respond to a situation.
Besides water safety, sun safety is just as important for children and adults. Be sure to apply enough sunscreen with a 30 or higher SPF level all over the body. Reapply sunscreen after swimming. Wear cool comfortable clothes with a tight weave that protects against UV rays. Protect the corneas with sunglasses that have 100% protection against UV rays. Wear sunhats and stay in the shade. Keep hydrated by drinking lots of water. As the adult, set the example for your children and they will follow.
Bottom line? Ensuring water safety is your responsibility as the parent. I hope that you got some valuable water safety tips from this blog post. Keep cool this summer and be safe.