Be a lifesaver: Tips for staying safe in the water

Having a solid foundation of water safety is essential to keeping your fun, water-filled weekends from turning to tragedy. The first thing to realize is that water safety conditions are determined by the location — lake, pond, pool or ocean.

Here are some general guidelines to keep you safe while splashing around in the water:

Check your surroundings. The first thing you should do when you get to your swimming location – whether it’s a pool, beach or boat – is to check your surroundings. Verify that a lifeguard is on duty. Make sure that you read and obey posted rules and guidelines; they could save your life. Before you hop in the water, make sure you check the depth so you don’t injure yourself when you jump in.

Be prepared. You can never be too prepared in the realm of water safety. The best thing you can do for yourself, concerning water safety, is learn to swim. This is a skill that will come in handy year after year. You should also learn how to properly administer CPR and understand how to react in an emergency situation.

Use common sense. This might be the most important rule when it comes to water safety. Using common sense can help prevent a lot of accidents. For example, don’t drink and swim. Alcohol makes you a little foggy and impairs your judgment. More than 50 percent of those involved in swimming or boating accidents were inebriated when injured. Twenty percent of those injured did not live. Also, never dive into a lake or river. Typically, these bodies of water are murky and many rocks and debris hide beneath the surface. Always enter feet first.

Even if you employ every tip we’ve suggested, your swimming fun can turn sour. It takes less than 1 minute to drown – 20 seconds for children – and it is the third leading cause of death worldwide. It’s important that you are able to recognize the signs of drowning.

Signs of drowning

They’re quiet. Most people who are drowning are physically incapable of screaming for help or splashing erratically.

They bob. Those in danger of drowning tend to bob up and down vertically in the water. Most are not above water long enough to take a breath. Be on the lookout for people low in the water with their head tilted back and their mouth open. Their eyes will most likely be closed or look glassy. They may appear to be hyperventilating or gasping for air.

How to help

First, call for a lifeguard and appoint someone to call 9-1-1. If someone is in trouble, reach for them with a pole or broom handle or toss them a plastic cooler, ball or other flotation device.

You should also be aware of the effects of dry drowning, which is responsible for up to 15 percent of drowning cases, and may occur 24 hours after a small amount of water is inhaled. Dry drowning can occur at any time – including the bathtub. Symptoms include: difficulty breathing, extreme tiredness and behavioral changes. If you suspect someone is suffering from dry drowning, immediately bring them to the hospital.

When it comes to water safety, the best thing you can do is know your limits, and don’t push yourself. For more information about water safety, visit RedCross.org.

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