1) I'd like to meet you.Introducing yourself and asking about the conditions at the beach or pool is always a good idea. "We want you to ask, 'What's the water like?' 'Any areas that I should steer clear of?' 'Where does the deep end start?'" says Luiz Morizot-Leite, ocean rescue captain at the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department in Miami and a lifeguard for 17 years. If possible, stand in front of the lifeguard so he doesn't have to take his eyes off the water. Yes, safety rules, current conditions and warnings are usually posted, but people often don't read the signs or understand how the information applies to them. Photo credit: Thinkstock
2) Stay hydrated. Treat swimming just as you would any other physical activity by drinking plenty of water before, during and after a swim. Your body still loses water even though you're in water. And while your body may stay cool in the pool or ocean, the sun can still dehydrate you-so drink up!
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3) Skip the floaties. Devices like noodles and arm floaties can easily come off, pop or slip out of a child's hands, says Nikki Bowie, safety program manager at the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission in Charleston, SC, and a lifeguard for 32 years. A Coast Guard-approved life jacket is the only flotation device you should use. Even so, stay within arm's reach of your child.
4) Don't bury yourself in the sand. Lying under a mound of sand with just your head, hands and feet sticking out may make a funny photo, but lifeguards say it's not worth the risk. Due to beach erosion, the bottom of the hole can give way in an instant and become dangerous. Never dig farther than knee-deep of the smallest person in your group. "Last summer, it took a rescue team 4 to 5 hours to get someone out of a hole, and he was having trouble breathing," says Morizot-Leite.
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5) Lightning is the biggest risk when you're out of the water. Lightning often strikes the tallest object, and at the beach, that's you. So when the lifeguard announces that everyone must clear the beach or pool, do it immediately. "People say, 'I'm just going to take a minute to pack up,' but lightning can strike in 60 seconds or less,"says Butch Arbin, captain of the Ocean City, MD, beach patrol and a lifeguard for 40 years.
6) Be realistic about your swim skills. "People often misjudge distance and overestimate their endurance," says Morizot-Leite. "They think, I can see the shoreline or the other end of the pool from here, so it's not that far," he explains. "So they swim out, then become exhausted on their way back and need to be rescued." At the beach, exhaustion is also a big danger because of rip currents. More than 80% of ocean rescues are due to these powerful, narrow channels of quickly moving water that pull you away from the shore (not under water). "People drown because they panic and expend all their energy trying to swim back to shore," says Bowie. The key to survival is to stay calm and swim parallel to the shoreline. A rip current isn't that wide, and once you're out of it, you will be able to swim back to land.
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7) The more adults who are around, the more you should pay attention. Everyone may assume someone else has an eye on the children, when in fact, no one does, says Bowie. Pick a water watcher-one adult for every six kids-and take shifts.
Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.
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