Minnesota is the land of 11,842 lakes, though 10,000 does have more splash. For those of us living in Minnesota, we’ve all been exposed to a body of water or two, and undoubtedly have heard a few water safety tips: don’t run on the dock, wear a lifejacket, wait 30 minutes to swim after you eat (that’s a myth, by the way). As the temperatures begin to rise, the temptation to rush down to the beach or pool gets greater every day. Before you dive in, remind yourself and your loved ones of proper water safety tips to ensure that everyone has a safe and fun time.
General Swimming Tips
The best offense is a good defense; all swimmers should arm themselves with the right tools in order to practice swim safety.
● Take a safety course. Everyone who goes swimming - especially kids - should have had age-appropriate swim lessons. Enroll your family in courses that emphasize basic water safety skills, emergency survival techniques, important strokes, and how to tread water. Look for classes that focus on water safety, home pool safety, first aid, and CPR/AED to learn how to prevent and react to emergencies. The Red Cross offers excellent options for swimming and water safety courses.
● Establish rules and boundaries. Set rules and limits, and consistently enforce them. These rules should be based on each swimmer’s ability and age.
● Always swim with a buddy. Swimming with a buddy is not only more fun, but it can help ensure each other’s safety.
● Avoid distractions. When supervising young children, avoid distracting elements and focus on staying within an arm’s reach of young children as they navigate the water.
● Sun safety matters. Protect your skin and eyes from the dangers of being in the sun for too long. Apply waterproof and sweat proof sunscreen liberally 20 minutes before you go out. Wear protective eyewear to minimize sun glare and to properly supervise your family.
Safety in Natural Bodies of Water
● Know your environment. In lakes, rivers, ocean beaches, and other natural bodies of water, watch for cold temperatures, currents, and underwater hazards that could pose a danger to water safety. Be on the lookout for currents and changes in weather that could drastically alter your swimming environment. Consider water shoes to protect your feet in rocky beaches.
● Boat safety matters. You might feel safer when in a boat, canoe, or kayak, but water safety matters even in cases of implied protection. Equip your passengers with maintained and appropriately-sized lifejackets.
● Supervision at all times. Actively supervise young swimmers whenever they are around the water, don’t rely solely on a lifeguard. Designate a responsible adult to supervise.
● Keep the pool area safe. Remove any ladders, outdoor furniture, or anything climbable that provide access to the pool when not in use. Use safety barriers as well. Secure your home pool cover when the pool is not in use. Install tall gates and enclosures that are high enough to be out of the reach of small hands. Consider pool alarms as an added layer of security.
● Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t let your guard down around man-made bodies of water like pools. Be aware, and remind your kids to not play around drains or suction fittings.
Water safety is a necessity in the summer months, but it shouldn’t take away from the fun to be had splashing around on a hot day. Remind your family and friends (without being a nag) of water safety so becomes second nature as they enjoy the water this summer.