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Red Cross Stresses Water Safety as Summer Kicks Off
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Katie Lawson
May 25, 2007

Memorial Day signifies the unofficial beginning of summer, as the school year comes to an end and neighborhood pools begin to open. The warmer months are a time for fun in the sun, and water safety is integral to making sure your family stays safe in and around the water.

Whether you’re the parent of a child or just a child at heart, be sure to follow these safety tips when near the water.

Learn to Swim

Of the many simple ways to prevent accidents from happening in and around the water, learning to swim should be the first step. The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that drowning claims the lives of more than 3,000 people each year, and children four and younger have the highest death rate due to drowning.

The American Red Cross offers swimming and lifeguarding courses.
The best thing you can do to ensure your child's safety in the water is to make sure they know how to swim. You can find more information about the American Red Cross Learn-To-Swim courses from your local chapter.
(Photo Credit: Stock Photo/American Red Cross)

By enrolling children in swimming classes as early as age three, you can drastically reduce their risk of drowning. The Red Cross Learn-to-Swim class provides instruction to would-be swimmers of all ages and is designed to give students a positive learning experience. Aquatic and safety skills are taught in a natural progression of six skill levels, including stroke development and refinement and general water safety.

Be a “Lifeguard”

Most water-related injuries happen when parents take their eyes off their children. Whether your children are heading to the neighborhood pool or only have to go as far as your own back yard to take a dip, keep them safe by following these safety tips:

  • Never leave a child alone or unattended near the water. Even though a trained lifeguard may be present, all parents should practice "reach supervision," which means to be within arm's length of a child in case an emergency occurs.
  • Children who are not strong enough to swim on their own should use U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices (PFDs). However, remember that PFDs cannot replace parental supervision.
  • All people (and especially children) should always swim with a buddy and be knowledgeable of the water environment, taking notice of deep and shallow areas, currents, exit areas and obstructions.
  • Watch your children for signs of the dangerous “toos”- too tired, too cold, too far from safety, too much sun and too much strenuous activity.

Use Your Head

Water safety starts with your head, not your arms and legs. You can prevent many accidents from occurring by observing common-sense precautions and making sure you’re prepared before you reach the water:

  • Read and obey all posted signs and rules.
  • Do not mix alcohol with swimming, diving or boating. Alcohol impairs your judgment, balance, and coordination, affects your swimming and diving skills, and reduces your body's ability to stay warm.
  • Pay attention to local weather conditions and forecasts. Stop swimming at the first indication of bad weather.
  • Pack a safety bag for a day at the beach or pool. Be sure to include waterproof sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, water shoes to keep feet safe from the heat and sharp objects on land and plenty of water for everyone to keep hydrated. All containers should be plastic to prevent injuries from breaking glass.
  • Learn CPR and first aid from your local Red Cross chapter.

Whether at the pool or at the beach, keep a close eye on your little ones. Be prepared and stay alert to avoid water related injuries..
Whether at the pool or at the beach, keep a close eye on your little ones. Be prepared and stay alert to avoid water related injuries.
(Photo Credit: Stock Photo/American Red Cross)

Keep Water Clean

Remember that water in pools is for swimming, not swallowing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that outbreaks of recreational water illnesses (RWIs) are on the rise, partly because of low public awareness of what they are and how they’re spread.

RWIs can cause ear, eye, respiratory, and neurological infections and can be transmitted by chlorine-resistant germs, especially at poorly maintained pools. For instance, the parasite responsible for the swell of diarrhea outbreaks associated with chlorinated pools is resistant to chlorine. The CDC indicates that germs such as E coli are also to blame for diarrhea outbreaks.

Proper disinfection of chlorinated pools will eliminate many germs that cause RWIs. The CDC recommends that swimmers follow these general rules to help prevent the spread of RWIs:

  • Don’t swim when you have diarrhea.
  • Don’t swallow pool water.
  • Take children for bathroom breaks and check diapers often.
  • Change diapers in a bathroom and not at poolside.
  • Wash your child thoroughly with soap and water before swimming.

This Memorial Day weekend and all summer long, be sure to follow these valuable tips to keep your family happy and safe. Don’t forget to share them with caregivers, including grandparents, older siblings and babysitters.

The American Red Cross helps people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. Last year, almost a million volunteers and 35,000 employees helped victims of almost 75,000 disasters; taught lifesaving skills to millions; and helped U.S. service members separated from their families stay connected. Almost 4 million people gave blood through the Red Cross, the largest supplier of blood and blood products in the United States. The American Red Cross is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. An average of 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs. The Red Cross is not a government agency; it relies on donations of time, money, and blood to do its work.

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