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5 Tips for Safer Swimming, Boating and Water Recreation

Don't overestimate your swimming skills, or underestimate the power of water

5 Tips for Safer Swimming, Boating and Water Recreation

As adults, we know to keep a close eye on kids when they splash in a pool or play near a lake. But it’s just as important to be mindful of our own water safety. These tips can help.

1. Make sure you swim as well as you think you do.

According to the American Red Cross, 85% of Americans say that they can swim – but fewer than half can actually perform basic swimming skills. What about you? In water over your head, can you:

  • Float or tread water for a minute?
  • Turn around in a full circle?
  • Swim 25 yards nonstop?
  • Get out safely (without using a ladder)?

If not, consider enrolling in a swimming class.

2. Avoid alcohol when boating, swimming or using a hot tub.

“Alcohol impairs judgment, coordination and balance,” says emergency medicine physician David Burmeister, DO, Chair, Emergency and Hospital Medicine, Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN). “That’s a dangerous mix around water.” In fact, up to 70% of water recreation deaths in adults and teens involve alcohol.

3. Don’t bet your life on foam or air-filled water toys.

For flotation support, use a well-fitted, Coast Guard-approved life jacket. “Wearing a life jacket reduces the risk for drowning while boating for people of all swimming abilities,” Burmeister says. “It’s also a smart idea for weaker swimmers at a pool or beach.”

4. Be extra-cautious when enjoying natural waters.

More than half of drownings among older teens and adults occur in lakes, rivers and other natural waters. “Be alert for hazards, such as currents, waves, rocks and vegetation,” he says. “When boating, pay close attention to weather conditions.”

5. Lower your risk for getting a waterborne illness.

“Pools, hot tubs and natural waters can harbor germs,” Burmeister says. “If you are exposed to these germs, they may cause diarrhea, ear pain or other symptoms.” To help prevent that, keep water out of your mouth while swimming, and dry your ears afterward. Avoid going into smelly or murky water.

Pools and hot tubs that are properly treated with germ-killing chemicals (chlorine or bromine) are less likely to cause problems. For extra peace of mind, consider bringing your own test strips to check for chemical levels. The strips are sold at many superstores and hardware stores.

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Get help for emergencies ASAP

If you or someone you love experiences a water-related emergency, get care right away. LVHN has nine emergency room locations

Learn more

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