Safety Precautions for Swimming

Observing safety precautions will lower your risk of drowning.
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Swimming is a beneficial way for you to get into shape. It improves endurance, makes the heart muscle stronger, increases circulation, improves muscle strength and flexibility and helps your body's ability to control and maintain weight. But swimming doesn't come without some risks, such as possible injury and drowning. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that drowning is the fifth leading cause of accidental death in America. Reduce your risk for injuries and drowning by following a few safety precautions.

Know How to Swim

Learning how to swim is one of the best ways to stay safe in the water. If you or other family members don't know how to swim, sign-up for beginning swimming courses. Check with your local YMCA and Red Cross center for swimming lessons in your area. Swimming lessons can lessen the risk of drowning among children ages 1 to 4, according to the CDC.

Avoid Alcohol and Drugs

Never swim while under the influence of alcohol or recreational drugs. Alcohol and recreational drugs impair judgment, coordination and balance, which can be made even worse by outdoor heat and sun exposure Even if you're a strong swimmer, you can succumb to the effects of alcohol and drugs. If you're taking any medication, ask your doctor about any possible side effects, such as drowsiness or impaired motor skill, and avoid swimming if they do.

Lifeguard On Duty

If you plan on swimming in a public pool or beach, don't enter the water unless a lifeguard is on duty. Even if you're a skilled swimmer, emergencies can happen that are out of your control. Lifeguards are trained to perform emergency rescues and first aid in the event of an emergency. Many public beaches are required to have a lifeguard for every 50 yards of beach.

Supervise Children

Approximately one in five people who drown are children 14 years old and younger, according to the CDC. Closely monitor children even if a lifeguard is present. Make sure that small children wear U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets and use flotation devices. But don't rely on flotation devices to replace supervision, warns the American Red Cross. Flotation devices can slip out from underneath a child or deflate, leaving them at risk for drowning. If you need to leave the swimming area, always take your children with you.

Avoid Bad Weather

Obtain a weather report before swimming. Thunderstorms with strong wind and lightning are dangerous, especially if you're in the water. If the weather report warns of upcoming storms, cancel swimming for that day. If you're swimming and notice lightning or hear thunder, leave the water immediately and seek shelter. Don't return to the water for at least 20 minutes after the last flash of lightning and sound of thunder.

Watch Out For Rip Currents

Even if you're a strong swimmer, rip currents are dangerous and can sweep you out to sea, according to the CDC. Rip currents are caused by waves that move from deep to shallow water. They can pull you into deep water at up to 8 feet per second. According to the U.S. Lifesaving Association, more than 100 people drown each year as a result of rip currents. Rip currents can be identified by discolored or choppy water that is filled with debris and traveling away from the shore. Swimming parallel to the shoreline will often free you from a rip current.

Swim Within Designated Areas

Designated swimming areas are marked by ropes or buoys. They're usually clear of rocky underwater terrain, weeds and other hazards. Motor boats are prohibited from these areas. Rivers are usually not designated for swimming, and it's best to stay out of them, recommends the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. If you do swim in a river, always bring a swimming buddy with you so you're not alone.

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