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Kids > Staying Safe > Playing It Safe Outdoors and on the Road > Swimming
Swimming

Lee este articuloSplashing, wading, and paddling — it must mean a great day in the water. Playing at the beach, at a water park, by a lake, or in a pool can be a real treat on a hot day.

Swimming is a lot of fun, but drowning is a real danger. Even kids who know how to swim can drown so, let's find out how to stay safe in the water.

Why Is It Important to Be Safe in the Water?

Fish are able to live and breathe in water, but people need air to breathe. People drown when too much water gets into their lungs. When that happens, the lungs can't carry enough oxygen to the brain and the rest of the body.

Drowning is the second most common cause of death from injuries among kids under the age of 14. Drowning can happen so fast — sometimes in less than 2 minutes after a person's head goes under the water. That leaves very little time for someone to help.

Many drownings and near-drownings occur when a kid accidentally falls into a swimming pool. But accidents can happen anywhere — at someone's home or even at your own house, and that's why you need to know how to be safe around water.

Swimming Pools

Pools are awesome! What could be better than a dip in the pool and fun in the sun? But remember a pool's sides and bottom are usually made of concrete, a rock-hard material. A slip or fall could be painful and dangerous.

Have you seen those big numbers painted on the side of the pool? Those are called depth markers — they tell you how deep the water is at that point. You should always look before you jump into a pool. You should also only dive off the diving board. Never dive off the side of the pool unless an adult says that the water is deep enough. The water may be shallower than you think. If you hit the bottom . . . ouch! You might get knocked out or you could hurt your neck very badly.

Test the pool's water temperature before you plunge in. Cold water can shock your body and make your blood pressure and heart rate go up. You might accidentally open your mouth to yell and accidentally breathe in some water. Cold water can also slow your muscles, making it hard to swim.

Other rules to follow:

Lakes and Ponds

Lots of kids swim in streams, lakes, or ponds. Extra care must be taken when swimming in these beautiful places. You can't always see the bottom of the lake or pond, so you don't always know the depth of the water. This is an additional reason to always swim with an adult.

Although the fish swimming around won't hurt you, some ponds and lakes may hide jagged rocks, broken bottles, or trash. Wear something to protect your feet. Also, watch out for weeds and grass, which can trap even a good swimmer. If you panic and try to yank yourself free, you may get even more tangled. Instead, shake and pull your arms and legs slowly to work yourself loose and call for an adult's help.

If you're going out on a boat, always wear a life jacket. (Again, the life jacket should be Coast Guard approved.) Even if you are a good swimmer, something could cause the boat to tip over and you could be trapped underneath.

Beaches

It's hard to resist a day on the beach, but you'll need to know some safety rules for swimming in the ocean. Swimming in the ocean is trickier than the pool because of waves and currents, which can change. When you first get to the beach, check with the lifeguard to find out how strong the waves are. Some places fly flags or write notes on a chalkboard to give swimmers an idea of what conditions are like.

Waves can knock you down or push you to the ocean floor. Stay close to an adult or get out of the water when the waves get rough. People also get into trouble when they start to panic or become too tired to swim. It's important to know your limits, so if you start feeling tired, get out of the water and rest for a while.

In some places swimmers may encounter strong undertows or ocean currents. Rip currents (also called riptides) are so strong that they can carry swimmers away from shore before they know what's happening. If you are caught in a current, swim parallel to the shore (alongside the shore) rather than toward the shore until the water stops pulling you, then swim back to shore. If you can't get back to the beach, tread water and wave for a lifeguard's help. In this situation it’s really important to stay calm and not panic.

You probably won't see any sharks (although a friendly dolphin may splash by) where you are swimming. But you might run into some jellyfish or Portuguese man-of-wars. These umbrella-shaped, nearly clear animals can grow to be as large as several feet in diameter! They are often found floating near the shore. Getting stung is no fun — it can hurt and blister your skin. If you get stung, tell an adult as soon as possible.

Other rules to follow:

Water Parks

Kids love water parks — and why shouldn't they? Wave pools, giant slides, and squirting fountains are a lot of fun. To stay safe, find out what each attraction is like and how deep the water is. Some wave pools can get rough, so it's a good idea to have an adult nearby.

Here are other water park safety tips:

But I Know How to Swim!

It's important to know your limits when it comes to playing in the water. You could develop a cramp (where a muscle in your body suddenly tenses up and causes pain) or other physical problem that makes it hard to swim. If you get a cramp, get out of the water for a while and give your muscles a rest.

Here are some other good water safety tips:

Reviewed by: Yamini Durani, MD
Date reviewed: June 2011

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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