During the summer months, many parents search online for tips to prevent drowning in backyard pools. But lakes, rivers and open water present additional risks that pools don’t. Here are some tips for families looking to enjoy the outdoors through summer.
More children and teens drown in open water than in pools. Watch out for the following hazards when preparing to swim in the lakes, rivers or oceans:
Murky lake and river water can hide sharp or slippery rocks, uneven or unstable logs and “strainers” or underwater branches and root systems that can easily catch your feet. These are constantly changing in unpredictable ways.
Depth and distance changes – Gently sloped shorelines can hide sudden drop-offs farther out, especiallyat the ocean or in moving rivers, where tides and changing conditions can move the sand and soil underfoot from one day to the next.
Rip tides and underwater currents can be strong, fast-moving and unpredictable, especially for families who only visit lakes and oceans occasionally. Avoid swimming at unsupervised beaches or in areas not designated for swimming, and be sure kids know how to deal with a crashing wave before swimming in open water.
Open water tends to be colder than the pools where kids often learn to swim. That can affect a child’s swimming ability and even cause panic if they fall in or get in too quickly.
While a summer thunderstorm makes swimming pools dangerous until it passes, the effects of weather on open water are longer lasting. Heavy rains and flooding can quickly change currents, temperatures and depth.
Summer storms can release fertilizers, insecticides and even sewage into lakes and rivers. Open wounds can become infected by bacteria that live in both fresh and saltwater environments.
Just as you would at the pool, keep a watchful eye on your children at all times.
The most important safety consideration is to make sure you ALWAYS watch your kids in and around water without being distracted, and be within arms’ reach.
The following steps also can help ensure that your family remains safe in and around the water.
Consider the risks ahead of time and be prepared with alternative activities, such as board games and Frisbees. That way your family will have a safe, enjoyable vacation no matter the weather.