Most of us grownups know the basics of staying safe around water and while swimming. However, we could all use a refresher, especially if we’re responsible for a kid or two at the beach or pool or on a cruise.
Water safety is no joke. It doesn’t matter if you’re hanging out in your backyard or traveling halfway around the world: You and your kids can encounter real dangers around water. Fortunately, you can keep everybody safe with a little preparation.
Read on to refresh your memory on the most dangerous things you should never do at the pool, near the ocean, or on a cruise.
1. Going by yourself
Whether you want to take a dip in the swimming pool or go sailing into the open ocean, you should always abide by the buddy system. Some time alone on the water might sound like a great way to clear your head. However, you always need to put safety first. Take a buddy with you, so you won’t find yourself without a helping hand should trouble arise.
And if you go to a beach with a lifeguard, don’t take it as a free pass to swim wherever you want. You need to stay within view of the lifeguard. If you can’t see them, they probably can’t see you, either.
2. Ignoring thunderstorms
Some light rain may not pose much of a danger when you want to take a dip in the pool or float around in the ocean. (And you’re going to get wet anyway, so what’s the big deal?) Thunderstorms, on the other hand, pose a real danger when you’re in or near the water. These storms bring lightning with them, and you can get electrocuted if you’re in or near the water when lightning strikes. Whenever you hear thunder or see lightning, get out of the water. The safety risk just isn’t worth it.
3. Skipping the sunscreen
This one sounds obvious, but we have to say it. You need to wear sunscreen anytime you’re outside, even if it’s not a super sunny day. Don’t skip the it by telling yourself that the water will just wash it off anyway. You need to apply and reapply sunscreen throughout your day in order to prevent a sunburn and reduce your chances of developing skin cancer in the long run.
4. Diving into water of an unknown depth
Adventurous travelers often go swimming at lakes, beaches, and other spots with which they aren’t 100% familiar. That’s great — as long as you look out for your safety. That means when you jump in the water, you should never dive headfirst into water of an indeterminate depth. The water might be deep enough for you to safely dive. However, it’s also possible that the water is shallower than you think.
5. Letting children play unattended
You should never let children play in or near water without an adult present and paying close attention. Even children who have strong swimming skills can end up in dangerous situations and get in over their heads. Don’t let your children into the swimming pool unless you’re there and paying attention. Similarly, ensure that they wait to get into the ocean until you can supervise. And never let them run around on a boat, a cruise ship, or another vessel unsupervised.
6. Pretending to drown
Everybody loves having some fun at the pool. However, you should never pretend to drown at the pool or at the beach. Lifeguards are doing their best to watch out for swimmers who have found themselves in real trouble. Pretending to drown distracts them. And, just like the boy who cried wolf, you might find yourself in trouble if you’re actually struggling to stay afloat later on.
Again, some types of fun should remain off limits around water. Rough games can quickly get dangerous around water, and it’s dangerous to do things, such as holding people underwater — even playfully. Make sure your kids have some safer games to play. Nobody wants to stop the fun, but you should always make sure that your kids aren’t playing games that will likely end in somebody getting hurt.
8. Pushing people into the water
It happens all the time in movies, but it’s not funny to push or to pull somebody into a pool or lake. They can easily hit their head or otherwise injure themselves when you shove them. They can even inhale water, which can have very dangerous consequences. Similarly, you should never throw children into the pool when they aren’t expecting it.
Similarly, games of tag can quickly turn treacherous on the slick surfaces around pools. Even strong swimmers can get injured falling into a pool (or slipping on a slick cruise ship deck). You can also get hurt running on a slippery dock, especially if you trip on ropes or other items on the dock. Make sure everybody in your family knows to watch their footing and go slowly as they make their way around the water.
10. Ignoring symptoms of heatstroke
If you’re spending the day by the water, chances are it’s pretty hot outside. Heatstroke, which happens when your body can’t stay cool enough, is a common problem, especially at the beach. You should never ignore the symptoms of the condition, including nausea, vomiting, fatigue, weakness, or muscle cramps. Do your best to drink plenty of fluids, stay in the shade, and cut your beach day short if it’s just too hot outside to stay comfortable.
11. Getting drunk
We love a poolside cocktail as much as the next vacationer. However, moderation is the name of the game when you’re drinking near water. You know your limits, but alcohol can dull your senses, impair your judgment, and slow your reaction times. Drunk people often make bad choices, which can have some pretty dangerous consequences at the pool or near the ocean.
12. Doing drugs
Even residents of states where cannabis is fully legal should refrain from indulging at the beach or beside the pool. Marijuana and other drugs can impair your ability to keep yourself (and your children) safe. And they also make it easier for you to become distracted when you’re supposed to be looking out for everybody’s safety. Just as you’d put the wine bottle away, refrain from recreational drugs when sitting next to a big body of water.
13. Swimming even when you’re tired
It’s hard to say no when everybody else wants to go swimming. However, you should always feel OK about sitting on the sidelines. Swimming when you’re exhausted can quickly get dangerous. Especially if you’re in deep water or go far from shore, you can quickly get into trouble if you’re already tired when you get in the water.
14. Not paying attention to currents
If you’re swimming in the ocean, you need to keep an eye out for rip currents, the narrow but strong currents that can pull swimmers away from the beach. Rip currents are commonly responsible for the deaths of swimmers along beaches in the United States because of how quickly they pull them away from the shore. If you get caught in one, you should try to swim parallel to the shore to get out of its grip.
15. Taking a nap
Taking a quick snooze on the beach or while you’re floating on a raft in the pool sounds tempting. However, it’s better to stay alert and pay attention to what’s going on around you. The tide can come in quickly, which could leave you stranded if the beach is narrow. Similarly, a dangerous thunderstorm can roll in with remarkable speed and surprise you. And as for napping on a raft in the pool? It’s definitely much safer to stay awake — and in full control of your body — when you’re floating in the water.
16. Using electricity
We know, we know: Everybody’s parent warned them about this one before they’d even started school. But this one is so important that it bears repeating. You should never use electricity around a body of water, whether it’s a small bathtub or a giant swimming pool. When you’re near water, don’t use any appliances or devices that you have to plug in to an electrical outlet. In the worst-case scenario, the device could fall in and electrocute someone.
17. Getting too close to the pool drain
Kids who are learning to dive love swimming to the bottom of the pool to demonstrate their skills. But you should make sure that your kids know not to get too close to the pool drain. You can easily get your fingers, your hair, or even your clothing stuck in the drain. The drain can actually trap you under the water thanks to the strong suction, so it’s safest to steer clear.