With summer upon us, Georgians know what the next couple of months hold — hot steamy weather. Many of us will likely turn to our favorite swimming places to keep cool.
While taking a dip at your favorite lake, pool, river or beach is enjoyable, there are some dos and don’ts you should follow to keep from turning fun into folly.
Be aware of the water
While your neighborhood swimming pool doesn’t likely have anything dangerous lurking in the deep, that is not always the case when you are in a lake, river or ocean.
If you are unfamiliar with where you are swimming and it is shallow, exercise caution when you enter. Don’t dive into water if you don’t know how deep it is or what might be in it. Enter feet first and be observant about the conditions.
Most safety tips warn that you should make sure if you dive the water is at least 9 feet deep with nothing in it that you might hit. Also, that 9 feet rule is only good if you are standing at the water’s edge. If you are diving from a boat or any other elevated place, you need to make sure the water is deep enough.
If you are swimming in the ocean, avoid areas with moving water, waves or rip currents. A rip current can pull you out into deeper water and make it very difficult to swim directly back to shore. If possible, swim where lifeguards are present and be aware of weather advisories that can indicate if there are any dangers.
Watch the kids
Be watchful when children are in the water. You can never be too careful. Drowning results in more deaths among children ages 1 to 4 than any other cause except birth defects. Whether in a pool or a lake, children need to be monitored carefully. When a crowd is present, don’t assume someone else is watching your child if you step away to get a drink of water or a hot dog.
It is advised that all parents keep an eye on their own children and that they choose a designated watcher if they have to leave while their kids are in the water.
Alcohol can affect your judgment, coordination and stamina. While often having a drink or two is often associated with summer fun by the water, mixing the two is not a good idea. If you suspect someone has been drinking, try to encourage them not to get in the water, and driving a boat is out of the question.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the use of alcohol is involved in:
-up to 70% of deaths associated with water recreation
-nearly 1 in 4 emergency department visits for drowning
-about 1 in 5 reported boating deaths
Some prescription drugs can also increase the risk of drowning, especially medications that are often prescribed for depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other conditions.
According to the CDC, side effects from these medications can be similar to the effects of alcohol, including poor judgment and decreased coordination.
Beware of pool contaminants
A swimming pool is always a popular gathering spot in the summer, but unfortunately it can also be a gathering spot for bacteria and other nasty things you can’t see.
Although most germs are killed within minutes by chlorine or bromine when your pool is correctly treated, cryptosporidium is a parasite that can survive in treated water for almost a week. That is why it is never a good idea to get pool water in your mouth. Pool owners can get test strips to indicate the presence of cryptosporidium, which can cause diarrhea and other illnesses.
Here are some tips for keeping your pool or hot tub clean:
-Don’t swim or let others swim if sick with diarrhea.
-Shower to remove dirt and other impurities that might be on your body
-Take kids on frequent bathroom breaks and check diapers frequently.
-Don’t change diapers poolside.
-Dry ears thoroughly with a towel after swimming.
Protect yourself from the sun
While the water might keep you cool, it won’t keep you from getting sunburned. Make sure you take steps to protect yourself from the sun.
If you are fair skinned, swim with a thin T-shirt. While it won’t protect your face and arms from the sun, it will keep your chest, shoulders and back from getting burned.
Apply sunscreen. Sunscreen is NOT waterproof but some brands are water resistant, meaning they can be effective for some time after you get wet. Reapply it periodically.
Take advantage of the shade. Breaks from constant exposure to sun can help prevent sunburn. Find a shady spot, maybe under an umbrella, and relax.