On a hot day, it is very tempting to go for a swim at the beach or in a cool pool, creating fun summer memories with family and friends. Regardless of where you decide to take a dip, it is always best to take precautions and practice safe swimming. It’s important to have safety rules in place for you and your family while enjoying water activities. These should be discussed in advance and respected by all members of your party regardless of age.
It’s important not to take water safety lightly. The consequences of unsafe water practices can be devastating: The Canadian Red Cross1 reported that between 2001 and 2010, more than 570 children drowned in Canada, two-thirds of which were under the age of 15. Moreover, they also reported that children under the age of 4 are at the greatest risk of drowning1. It’s far better to prevent and manage the risks; being mindful of safe swimming practices is important at all ages and in all environments.
Here are some health and safety tips for both pool and open water swimming:
Backyard Pools 2,3
- Build a fence that has a self-enclosing and self-latching gate.
- Be prepared with a rescue device, phone, and first aid kit nearby.
- Lifejackets or assistive floating devices should be worn by weaker swimmers. However, lifejackets should not be used as a substitute for adult supervision. Children must be supervised at all times.
- For those weaker swimmers and children, consider enrolling in swimming lessons with a trained and qualified swimming instructor.
- Always enter the pool feet first.
- Do not consume any drugs or alcohol in or around the pool.
- Do not swim alone.
- Swim during the daytime.
- Exit the pool if there is a thunderstorm or lightning.
- Small portable or “kiddie” pools should be emptied when not in use. The ladder or steps for above ground pools should be removed when not in use.
Open water is very different than swimming in a pool, and the risks can be significantly greater. For example, distances can be deceiving, and open water swimmers often have to contend with cold water, waves, currents, drop-offs, sandbars, and other underwater obstacles. Some further cautions:
- Do not underestimate the power of currents and tides. A swimmer or wader in open water can be easily swept away by currents if they are not attentive or careful.
- Wind and waves can pose a danger to swimmers and boaters. It is essential to be aware of weather conditions before entering open water, whether swimming or boating.
Enjoy swimming and having fun in the water—but make sure you are enjoying it safely and remain conscious that it can be dangerous without safety measures in place.
In addition to the above swimming safety cautions and tips, make sure to warm-up and stretch properly before jumping in the water. Swimming is a full-body exercise, and stretching can help lower risk of MSK injury when swimming for long distances or long periods of time. Check out our fit tips for ways to make the most out of your physical activity.
References 1 Canadian Red Cross. Child Drownings in Canada. May 24, 2013. http://www.redcross.ca/crc/documents/What-We-Do/Swimming-Water-Safety/facts-and-figures-water-safety-week-2013.pdf. 2 Canadian Red Cross. Swimming, Boating and Water Safety Tips. http://www.redcross.ca/training-and-certification/swimming-and-water-safety-tips-and-resources/swimming--boating-and-water-safety-tips. 3 Canadian Red Cross. Backyard Pools. http://www.redcross.ca/training-and-certification/swimming-and-water-safety-tips-and-resources/swimming--boating-and-water-safety-tips/backyard-pools.