With the release of students from school, summer vacation has officially arrived. Summer often brings pastimes for families that involve water-related activities. We wait all year long to be able to bask in the summer sun (with sunscreen of course) and entertain our families in the water. But before you head to the lake or pool, be sure to brush up on summer water safety. From boating protocol to pool rules, we need to make sure that we do everything we can to ensure not just an enjoyable summer, but a safe one as well.
Last week was National Safe Boating Week, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) featured some basic boating guidelines that are helpful when you are on the water. First, wearing a life jacket dramatically reduces the risk of drowning. This rule should apply to everyone on the boat, not just children. Another important reminder for both drivers and passengers is not to drink alcohol. Alcohol impairs judgment, vision, balance and coordination. Being in the sun and heat means that the alcohol will affect the aforementioned traits and sensibilities at a quicker rate. It is safer to completely abstain from drinking alcohol when boating. The CDC also suggests taking a boating course. Many accidents are caused by operator error, so a course could prove useful. The CDC recommends getting a vessel safety check. The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadron offer a free public service known as The Vessel Safety Check (VSC). Check out the website for more information regarding safety checks. Finally, the CDC warns about the dangers of carbon monoxide (CO). CO has the potential to kill in a matter of minutes, therefore boats need to have CO detectors, particularly in living and sleeping areas.
Swimming and summer go hand in hand. Many people have either private or neighborhood pools that they utilize in the summer, and beach vacations are common. Water safety includes never swimming alone, regardless of skill level. Ocean swimming should only be permitted when a lifeguard is on duty. Also, make sure young children and inexperienced swimmers wear life jackets and are under constant supervision. Be sure to stay within arm’s length of young children when swimming. Make sure to check that all drains in the pool are covered. For home pools, it is important to have an appropriate barrier that surrounds all four sides of the pool to help safeguard against children drowning. According to the American Red Cross, children who drown in home pools were often out of sight for less than five minutes and in the care of at least one parent at the time. If a child is missing, always check the water first. Kids can drown in seconds and often in silence. Enrolling in a water safety and CPR course would be beneficial in learning how to respond to an aquatic emergency.
In the past few years, we have heard more and more about Recreational Water Illness (RWI), which may produce concern about our families swimming in public pools and water parks. RWI infections occur when germs are spread by contact with contaminated water. The most common RWI is diarrhea, but skin, eye, and ear infections can also be contracted. How do we safeguard against RWIs? First, do not go swimming if you have a skin rash or have been sick, especially with diarrhea. Practice good pool hygiene by showering with soap before and after you swim. Parents need to check swim diapers frequently and change dirty diapers in the restroom, not poolside. Also, be sure not to swallow any pool water, and teach your children to do the same. Finally, make sure that the pool you use keeps its chlorine at the recommended levels and monitors those levels regularly.
Playing it safe by following these guidelines will help us all have fun in the sun!