Lake and Ocean Water Safety
Tips to keep the kids safe
By: Rhea Seymour
There's nothing like a day at the beach with the kids. Of course, you need to make safety a priority, along with having fun, when you're taking the family swimming in a lake or the ocean. "All children should take swimming lessons to learn how to swim well," says Greg Stockton, an American Red Cross health and safety expert. And when you're swimming in lakes or the ocean, your family should stay in the supervised areas, since unmarked areas may hold potential dangers, such as sudden drop-offs. Here are his other tips for safe swimming:
Look before you leap. Parents and children should only dive head first into areas that are clearly marked for diving. Even if you're familiar with a lake or river, the conditions underwater tend to change, so go for a swim before your kids to make sure it's safe. When you dive in, make sure you're extending your arms over your head to protect your head just in case.
Keep an eye on the temperature. Your children might be fine in cold water depending on other factors, such as the wind, or whether it's sunny or cloudy out. But watch them for signs that the water temperature is too low. Look for shivering, a bluish tinge to the skin or an apathetic mood - at the extreme, swimming in too-cold water can lead to hypothermia. If you're swimming in the ocean, consider outfitting the kids in wet suits, which help retain body heat.
Be mindful of your surroundings. Most times, aquatic life isn't going to pose a danger to your children, but you should keep an eye out for potentially dangerous conditions, such as large patches of vegetation on the water surface, just in case. Kids could potentially get tangled in these patches and attract the interest of animal predators. Also avoid areas where birds are on the water eating fish; predatory animals often hover around areas where food is nearby.
Beware of the undertow. Talk to your children about how to react if they get caught in an undertow or rip current. The key is to stay calm, and since currents are strong but not very wide, swimming parallel to the shore, across the current, is the best way to come out of it. Teaching them to tread water while they call for help is another good safety measure.
Keep a watchful eye. As tempting as it may be to relax on the beach while your little ones swim, don't rely on floatation devices like water wings or rafts to keep your children safe. You should be swimming with them until they are strong enough to go it alone.