Splashing, wading, and paddling — it must mean a great day in the water.
Playing at the beach, at a water park, by a lake, or in a pool can be a real treat
on a hot day.
Swimming is a lot of fun, but drowning is a real danger. Even kids who know how
to swim can drown, so let's find out how to stay safe in the water.
Why Is It Important to Be Safe in the Water?
Fish are able to live and breathe in water, but people need air to breathe. People
drown when too much water gets into their lungs. When that happens, the lungs can't put oxygen in the blood.
Then, too little oxygen gets to the brain and the rest of the body.
Drowning is the second most common cause of death from injuries among kids under
the age of 14. Drowning can happen so fast — sometimes in less than 2 minutes
after a person's head goes under the water. That leaves very little time for someone
Many drownings and near-drownings happen when a kid accidentally falls into a swimming
pool. But accidents can happen anywhere — at someone's home or even at your
own house, and that's why you need to know how to be safe around water.
Pools are awesome! What could be better than a dip in the pool and fun in the sun?
But it's important to remember that a pool's sides and bottom are usually made of
concrete, a rock-hard material. A slip or fall could be painful and dangerous.
Have you seen those big numbers painted on the side of the pool? Those are called
depth markers — they tell you how deep the water is at that
point. You should always look before you jump into a pool. Also, only dive off the
diving board. Never dive off the side of the pool unless an adult says that the water
is deep enough. The water may be shallower than you think. If you hit the bottom .
. . ouch! You might get knocked out or you could hurt your neck very badly.
Test the pool's water temperature before you plunge in. Cold water can shock your
body and make your blood pressure and heart rate go up. You might open your mouth
to yell and accidentally breathe in some water. Cold water also can slow your muscles, making it hard to swim.
Other rules to follow:
Always have an adult watch you when you are in the pool — even in your own
backyard. Never go in the pool if there is no adult around. Always call an adult or
lifeguard if there is an emergency.
Gates are around pools for a reason — to keep kids away from the water when
there isn't a lifeguard or adult around to watch them. Never go through any pool gates
when they are closed. Stay safe and stay out!
Always obey pool rules.
Swim with a buddy.
If you're learning to swim, ask your mom or dad to make sure your flotation devices
are Coast Guard-approved.
Walk slowly in the pool area. Don't run.
Swim at a depth that is safe for you. If you're just learning to swim, stay in
the shallow end.
Don't push or jump on others. You could accidentally hurt someone or yourself.
Toys to help you float come in many shapes and sizes (an inner tube, air mattress,
or beach ball, for example). Although they're fun and can help you while you learn
to swim, what they can't do is save a life. They're toys that can
lose air or float away.
Don't chew gum or eat while you swim — you could choke.
Lakes and Ponds
Lots of kids swim in streams, lakes, or ponds. Take extra care when swimming in
these beautiful places. You can't always see the bottom of the lake or pond, so you
don't always know the depth of the water. This is another reason to always swim with
Although the fish swimming around won't hurt you, some ponds and lakes may hide
jagged rocks, broken bottles, or trash. Wear something to protect your feet. Also,
watch out for weeds and grass, which can trap even a good swimmer. If you panic and
try to yank yourself free, you may get even more tangled. Instead, shake and pull
your arms and legs slowly to work yourself loose and call for an
If you're going out on a boat, always wear a life jacket. (Again, the life jacket
should be Coast Guard-approved.) Even if you are a good swimmer, something could cause
the boat to tip over and you could be trapped underneath.
It's hard to resist a day on the beach, but you'll need to know some safety rules
for swimming in the ocean. Swimming in the ocean is trickier than the pool because
of waves and currents, which can change. When you first get to the beach, check with
the lifeguard to find out how strong the waves are. Some places fly flags or write
notes on a chalkboard to give swimmers an idea of what conditions are like.
Waves can knock you down or push you to the ocean floor. Stay close to an adult
or get out of the water when the waves get rough. People also get into trouble when
they start to panic or become too tired to swim. It's important to know your limits,
so if you start feeling tired, get out of the water and rest for a while.
In some places, swimmers may run into strong undertows or ocean currents.
Rip currents (also called riptides) are so strong that they can carry swimmers away
from shore before they know what's happening. If you are caught in a current, swim
parallel to the shore (alongside the shore) rather than toward the shore until the
water stops pulling you, then swim diagonally back to shore. If you can't get back
to the beach, tread water and wave for a lifeguard's help. In this situation, it's
really important to stay calm and not panic.
You probably won't see any sharks (although a friendly dolphin may splash by) where
you are swimming. But you might run into some jellyfish
or Portuguese man-of-wars. These umbrella-shaped, nearly clear animals can grow to
be as large as several feet in diameter! They are often found floating near the shore.
Getting stung is no fun — it can hurt and blister your skin. If you get stung,
tell an adult as soon as possible.
Other rules to follow:
Never swim alone!
Always swim where a lifeguard can see you and in areas that are marked for swimmers
Wear protective footwear if surfaces are rough or rocky.
Don't swim out too far.
Never pretend to be drowning. The lifeguard may take you seriously.
Don't swim close to piers — those big, wooden structures that jut out into
the water. If the water moves suddenly, you could hit a piling or a rock.
Store drinks in plastic containers at the beach — broken glass bottles and
bare feet don't mix.
Face the waves, instead of turning your back on them. Then you'll know what's
Kids love water parks — and why shouldn't they? Wave pools, giant slides,
and squirting fountains are a lot of fun. To stay safe, find out what each attraction
is like and how deep the water is. Some wave pools can get rough, so it's a good idea
to have an adult nearby.
Here are other water park safety tips:
Wear a life jacket if you don't know how to swim or if you're not a strong swimmer.
Read all of the signs before going on a ride. Make sure you are tall enough, old
enough, and don't have any of the medical conditions that are listed. If you have
questions, check with a parent or ask the lifeguard.
Always make sure there's a lifeguard at each ride and listen to his or her instructions.
Wait until the rider ahead of you has passed a safe point for you to go down the slide.
Always go down the water slide face up and feet first. This is the safe and correct
way to ride.
When you go from ride to ride, don't run — it's slippery! Also, remember
that each ride is different. Read each sign and note how deep the water is in the
But I Know How to Swim!
It's important to know your limits when it comes to playing in the water. You could
develop a cramp (where a muscle in your body suddenly tenses up and causes pain) or
other physical problem that makes it hard to swim. If you get a cramp, get out of
the water for a while and give your muscles a rest.
Here are some other good water safety tips:
Learn to swim. Ask your parents to contact your local American Red Cross or community
center for information on boating or water safety courses.
Always put on plenty of sunscreen
before you go outside. It's also a good idea to wear sunglasses and a hat to protect
your skin from the sun's harmful rays.
Drink plenty of water and fluids when you're outside swimming and playing so you
don't become dehydrated.
Stop swimming or boating as soon as you see or hear a storm. Remember, lightning
is electricity — electricity and water are a dangerous combination.
Don't swim in the dark.
Go into the water slowly to make sure the temperature feels comfortable and it's
not too cold. If you're shivering or start to feel your muscles cramping up, it may
be because the water is too cold. This is not safe, so get out of the water immediately.
Germs might lurk in the water that can make a person sick with diarrhea or other
illnesses. So make sure not to swallow the water. And to help keep the water
as clean as possible: shower with soap before going swimming, wash your hands after
using the bathroom, and don't swim if you're sick.
Wherever you're swimming, do have a waterfall of fun!