Print view logo

Water safety: Don't 'dive in' without first being prepared

water safety

Hanging out at the pool, lake, or beach is a great way to beat the heat this summer. Before you dive in, learn how to be safe in the water first.

Death and injury from drownings happen every day in home pools or hot tubs, in oceans, lakes, rivers and streams, bathtubs, and even buckets. It only takes a moment. A child or weak swimmer can drown in the time it takes to reply to a text or apply sunscreen.

Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death among children between 1 and 4 years old and the second leading cause of unintentional injury death for children 5-14, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Be safe and keep others safe around water by avoiding common dangers, developing water safety skills, and knowing how to prevent and respond to drowning emergencies.

Avoid distractions.

Empty containers of water.

Learn CPR

Be smart around water

To help be prepared, follow these safety tips when participating in any water activity:

  • Know your limitations, including physical fitness and medical conditions.
  • Swim with a buddy and never alone. Also, swim near lifeguards or water watchers.
  • Wait an hour after eating before going into the water.
  • Swim sober.
  • Never dive headfirst into water that is less than 9 feet deep, as recommended by the American Red Cross. If the depth is not marked, do not dive.
  • Know how to call for help.
  • Swim in safe areas. Understand and adjust to your water environment, like:
    • River currents
    • Ocean rip currents
    • Water temperature
    • Shallow or unclear water
    • Underwater hazards, such as vegetation and animals.

Be smart about water at home

  • Watch children when they are in or around water, without being distracted. Young children can drown in as little as one inch of water, so it's important to keep them within an arm's reach of an adult.
  • Empty tubs, buckets, containers, and kids' pools immediately after use. Store them upside down and out of children's reach.
  • Install fences around home pools. A pool fence should surround all sides of the pool and be at least four feet tall with self-closing and self-latching gates.
  • Learn CPR and basic water rescue skills. It's important to know how to respond in an emergency without putting yourself at risk.
  • Teach children how to swim – enroll them in lessons – consider their age, development, and how often they are around water.

Be smart with watercrafts and water sports

Driving a watercraft or participating in a water sport can be a lot of fun and great exercise, but you need to be prepared. Here are tips to help you get prepared for boating, kayaking, and more:

  • Know how to swim before you partake in any water sport, hop in a boat, kayak, or a motorized craft.
  • Take a boating safety course first.
  • Dress for the appropriate sport and weather. In the summer, wear a bathing suit and/or shorts, a T-shirt, and a hat to protect you from the sun. When it's cold, layer up with a waterproof jacket, trousers, hat, and gloves to keep yourself warm on the water. Wetsuits or dry suits also provide flotation and warmth.
  • Have safety equipment on board — including a fire extinguisher, toolbox, a first aid kit, and distress signals.
  • Always wear a life jacket while boating, kayaking, or other water activity, regardless of your swimming skills.
  • Check your equipment. Make a checklist and use it each time you go out on the water.
  • Tell someone where you are going and when you will return.
  • Check the weather forecast before you set out, and make sure you are prepared for whatever weather conditions you may encounter.
  • Get appropriate craft training or take an experienced person with you.
  • Make sure you have a means of communication to call back to shore.
  • Obey warning signs, and don't operate in restricted areas.

To avoid injuries with water sports like swimming, jet skiing, waterskiing, and more:

  • Stay hydrated to prevent cramping or muscle sprains and strains.
  • Stretch - stretching warms up your muscles and increases your range of motion.
  • Take breaks and know your limits – water sports can be vigorous exercise.
  • Wear a helmet when the sport requires one.

"Neck and shoulder injuries are among the most common injuries that swimmers face," said Abbey LeCompte, CRBP, with WellSpan Urgent Care. "Neck and shoulder injuries from swimming include irritation, inflammation, and tears in the shoulders."

"The most common waterskiing injuries include hamstring strains, ankle sprains, ankle fractures, and Achilles tendon ruptures," said Dr. Zachary Geidel. "To help prevent ankle injuries, thoroughly inspect the bindings, and make sure all screws and Velcro are in place."

Need help? We've got you covered this summer.

urgent care illustration

Urgent Care

We are here to help treat illness and injuries with quick, walk-in urgent care. Find your closest location.

Find a location

virtual care illustration

Virtual On-Demand Care

Have a health question? You can get answers fast by talking to a board-certified doctor online, 24/7.

Get care now

Related Stories