Make a splash without the cash

By Staff
Special to the Enquirer
Thousands of people will be turning to the water to find cooling relief or some fun this season. Whether you take a leisurely dip in the backyard pool or a high-speed adventure aboard a jet ski, safety should always take precedence where water is involved.
The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC) reports that, in 2003, there were 3,306 unintentional fatal drownings in the United States, averaging nine people per day. This figure does not include drownings in boating-related incidents. Males account for about 80 percent of all fatal drownings. And 25 to 50 percent of all water-related deaths among adults and adolescents can be attributed to alcohol being mixed with recreational water activities.
No one wants to put a damper on water fun. It’s just important to keep safety in mind every time you are in or around water. To do so, here are some safety tips and water-related how-to’s.
First and foremost, knowing how to swim can help save lives. You don’t have to be an Olympic medalist; simply knowing how to stay afloat and do something as simple as a dog paddle can be all it takes to remain safe. Children are usually physically and mentally ready for swimming lessons by age 4. And remember, water wings or other “floaties” are not safety devices and shouldn’t be relied upon as such. They may present a false sense of security to a child who doesn’t really know how to swim. A life jacket is the best protection.
Lakes, Rivers, Streams
These fresh-water delights can be popular gathering spots for families and other fun seekers. Safety around these areas includes knowing what the body of water entails. Unlike controlled scenarios, such as pools and water parks, natural water sources may vary in depth and current. They also have marine life and other potential dangers, such as slippery rocks. It is very important never to dive into these water sources. You don’t know what may be under the water, even if you’ve visited the spot before. Entering slowly and feet-first is always advised, unless there are signs indicating diving is allowed. Also look for postings about whether the water is safe. At times, contamination – both natural and man-made – can make swimming off limits.
If choosing a public park or campground, select one that is clean and well maintained. A clean bathhouse, tidy restrooms, and a litter-free environment show concern for your health and safety.
Oceans
Oceans present all types of currents and swimming situations that can change very rapidly. Always know the surf and forecasted weather conditions before venturing out to swim.
When in the water, always swim in designated areas. These are set up for your safety. Swimming out of range could put you in harm’s way, either in the path of dangerous marine life or too far to safely swim back to shore. Don’t touch any aquatic animals or fish while in the water. Also, some ocean life, such as anemones, coral and jellyfish, can sting and be poisonous.
Always engage in water activities with a buddy. This way if something happens to either of you someone can go back or signal for help.
Additionally, stay away from piers, pilings, and diving platforms when in the water. The current could push you up into one of these and you could be injured. If caught in a current, don’t try to swim against it. Rather, swim gradually out of the current, by swimming across it, advises the Red Cross.
Pools
Adult supervision is always recommended around a pool, especially when children are swimming. Learn CPR as a safety precaution, and install a phone nearby or keep a cordless or cellular phone outside by the pool to dial 9-1-1 in the event of an emergency.
Many laws state that the pool be completely enclosed with a self-locking fence with vertical bars. Furniture or other objects that can be scaled should not be next to this fence to restrict climbing and entry.
Set house rules for the pool, deterring diving and running around the perimeter of the pool (in-ground varieties). Alcohol and swimming don’t mix, so encourage adults to act responsibly when entertaining.
Boating and Watercraft
Use Coast Guard approved life jackets for safety in and around water.
Anytime you go out in a boator on a personal watercraft (PWC), give a responsible person details about where you will be and how long you will be gone. This is important because if you are delayed because of an emergency, become lost, or encounter other problems, you want help to be able to reach you.
Take a course that will teach about navigation rules, emergency procedures and the effects of wind, water conditions, and weather. The Coast Guard, the Red Cross and other organizations may host them. Know the rules of the water and be cautious and courteous with swimmers and others sharing the area. Obey no-wake and speed zones.
Alcohol impairs your judgement, reaction time and balance. Never drink when you are operating a vessel.
Know weather and water conditions in advance of your trip.
Scuba diving, snorkeling, surfing
Though independent recreational activities, all of these require strong swimming ability and training from a professional. Always go out with a buddy or a group in the event of an emergency.
Know how to properly operate all equipment. And keep skill level in mind. Do not enter rough or dangerous waters or environments for which you are not trained.
When safety comes first in the water, the chance for injury diminishes and the opportunity for fun increases.
Play it safe in the sun
While the most immediate consequence of overexposure to the sun is unsightly (and often painful) sunburn, as the Skin Cancer Foundation (SCF) points out, sunburn could be only the beginning. Among the most serious concerns is skin cancer.
In addition to regularly applying sun protection such as sunscreen whenever you go out in the sun, SCF offers these tips to further lessen your risk of skin cancer.
Do not burn. Many people feel a sun burn is harmless once the pain vanishes with the redness. However, SCF notes that a person’s risk for skin cancer doubles once that person has burned five or more times. If sunburns have become an undesirable yet accepted part of your spring and summer routine, change your ways.

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