After months of being stuck inside during the winter, one of the first things kids want to do is jump in the pool or ocean. But because they haven¹t been in the water since the summer, many of them are not prepared. While parents want to relax in the sun, maybe finally have a chance to read a book, they need to be more vigilant than ever.
“There are a lot of distractions,” Sue Mackie, executive director U.S. Swim School Association, says. “Many people use their smartphones to call and text but with your face in front of the phone, you’re not watching the kids.”
It’s a good idea, she adds, to examine your child’s swimming skills. They can be rusty after months of not being in the water. “Go to the hotel pool or the beach and have them show you what they remember.” This is the best way to ascertain how close you need to be to them when they are in the water and whether you should just watch them or be within arm’s reach.
There has to be at least one “active watcher,” Mackie adds. This is a person whose eyes are constantly on the children. He or she is “scanning the water” all the time to make sure no one gets in trouble. A lifeguard is looking at dozens of people and can’t be focused on one child in particular.
Many parents opt out for foam pool noodles, water wings and inflatable rings but, contrary to popular belief, they don’t make children safer in the water. “They create a false sense of security for the parents and the children,” Mackie says. The adults in this situation think that the kids will be safe, causing them to believe the same. “This is a bad recipe for safety.”
The kids get used to these accessories. They may decide to jump in the pool without them. “Then thet panic because they are not swimming the same way as when they have the ‘wings.’” The water wings can also become deflated and get smaller. They are less tight and can fall off, putting the child in danger.
“Be careful with floating toys and pool rings,” Mackie says. “They can block your view, making it hard to see if a child is be in trouble.” Such accessories are a barrier in your line of sight and should be removed if they are not being used.
Rip currents are the ocean's deadliest trick. Every year the number of deaths due to rip currents in the country exceeds 100, according to United States Lifesaving Association. They account for over 80 percent of rescues performed by surf beach lifeguards.
If you ever get caught in one, swim parallel to the beach until you’re away and then swim towards theshore If you can float on your back, do it. The current will eventually lose its momentum and you can swim to safety.
Kids like them but “we don’t advise them at all,” Mackie says. “We have instances of people drowning every year by trying to hold their breath under water.” The problem is that you are not aware of your capacity to not breathe. “There is a thin line between this and losing consciousness,” she adds. And the person you are playing with may not necessarily recognize if you’re still in the game or passed out. If you absolutely must play such a dangerous game, you should, at the very least, set limits and count, Mackie adds.
“This is your first line of defense,” Mackie says. Learn how to swim before you get in the water because accidents happen and there may not be enough time for a lifeguard to get to you.
Never swim alone
Always swim with a buddy. This is the person closest to you when/if you need assistance. Help cannot be more immediate than that.