Heading into Memorial Day weekend, many families are preparing for a three-day weekend full of gatherings, cookouts and relaxation. For some, that will include activities in or around water.
While there can be nothing more fun, or refreshing, than splashing around a pool or a lake, it’s important to take the time to revisit safe water practices during this time of year, said Bill Ramos, assistant professor of recreation, park and tourism studies and director of the aquatic institute at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington.
“Being in the water is fun for people of all ages,” Ramos said. “But it’s like everything else: It has boundaries, and people need to know how to stay safe around it.”
Ramos, who also serves as a member of the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council’s Aquatics Subcouncil, provides six tips for people of all ages, to safely enjoying summer water activities:
- Talk to your child. Most people think water safety simply means learning to swim, Ramos said. But children should also be taught how to behave around water, the potential dangers of water and what to do in case of an emergency. That discussion, he said, should happen frequently. “It’s important to revisit water safety with your kids,” he said. “Don’t assume they remember from last summer.”
- Take it easy. For most people, winter time is a dry time. So when summer hits, many are quick to dive back in. But Ramos suggests swimmers ease back into their routine and not overestimate their swimming abilities, especially after a period spent predominantly on dry land. “It’s like the first time you start running again after you haven’t done it for a while,” he said. “You need to ease back into it.”
- Refamiliarize yourself with bodies of water. A lake that was deep last year may be more shallow now. When swimming in natural bodies of water, such as lakes or ponds, re-evaluate the area to make sure they are still fit for swimming or diving.
- Nothing beats supervision. Always keep an eye on young people in or around water. Even if lifeguards or other adults are around, Ramos said nothing compares to one-on-on attention when it comes to children and water. Also keep distractions, such as cellphones, to a minimum so you can stay focused. “Parents shouldn’t rely on the supervision of others,” he said. “You know your child’s capabilities better than anyone.”
- Wear a life jacket. Always wear an approved personal flotation device or life jacket in an open body of water, no matter what your age, and never swim alone or impaired. “We think of life jackets as only for non-swimmers, but they are a safety device,” Ramos said. “Even the best swimmer can have an incident in the water and need it.”
- Have a plan. It is important to know what to do if an emergency occurs, Ramos said, including how to recognize if someone is in trouble, how to remove the person from water without putting yourself in danger, calling emergency medical services and beginning CPR. “When the crisis happens, time is of the essence,” he said. “You need to have a plan and to frequently review it with your family.”
The American Red Cross offers more resources and tips for staying safe around water.
SOURCE: Indiana University