Summer is here and for many of us, that means taking a refreshing dip in a pool or hitting the beach for some fun in the sun. But with water-related illnesses and injuries on the rise, it’s important to ask the question: is it safe to go swimming? Dive into the truth with us as we explore the risks and safety measures associated with swimming.
The Risks of Swimming
Swimming in any body of water comes with inherent risks, including:
- Slips, trips, and falls
- Waterborne illnesses
- Chemical exposure
We’ll take a closer look at some of these risks below.
Drowning is a leading cause of accidental death, especially among children. It can happen in as little as 20 seconds and often occurs silently, so it’s important to always be vigilant when swimming or around water. To reduce the risk of drowning, you should:
- Never swim alone
- Supervise children closely
- Learn to swim proficiently
- Always wear a life jacket (especially when boating)
- Observe “no diving” signs
- Observe posted safety rules and guidelines at all times
Swimming pools, hot tubs, and beaches can all be breeding grounds for germs and bacteria that can cause a variety of illnesses, including:
- Swimmer’s ear (infection of the ear canal)
- Eye infections (such as conjunctivitis, or “pink eye”)
- Respiratory infections (including pneumonia and Legionnaires’ disease)
- Gastrointestinal illnesses (such as cryptosporidiosis and giardiasis)
These illnesses are most often spread through fecal contamination, but can also be spread through contaminated water or surfaces. To reduce the risk of waterborne illnesses, you should:
- Never swim when you have diarrhea
- Shower before swimming
- Avoid swallowing pool or hot tub water
- Observe good hygiene practices
Safety Measures for Swimming
Despite the risks associated with swimming, it’s still a great way to stay active and cool off during the summer months. By taking some basic safety measures, you can help ensure a safe and enjoyable time in the water.
Learn to Swim
One of the best things you can do to prevent drowning and other water-related injuries is to learn to swim. By becoming a proficient swimmer, you’ll be better able to handle unexpected situations and emergencies that might arise while in the water.
Never swim alone and always supervise children when they’re in or around water. Children can drown in as little as an inch of water, so it’s important to keep a close eye on them at all times.
Wear a Life Jacket
Wearing a life jacket is a simple but effective way to prevent drowning. Life jackets should always be worn when boating, and can also be worn during other water activities such as kayaking, paddleboarding, and swimming in open water.
Observe Safety Rules
Observe posted safety rules and guidelines at all times. This includes things like “no diving” signs, pool capacity limits, and hours of operation. By following established rules and guidelines, you can help prevent accidents and injuries while swimming.
Good Hygiene Practices
Observe good hygiene practices to reduce the risk of waterborne illnesses. This means avoiding swimming when you have diarrhea, showering before swimming, and avoiding swallowing pool or hot tub water.
Swimming is a fun and refreshing way to stay active and cool off during the summer months. But it’s important to recognize the risks associated with swimming and to take steps to ensure your safety and the safety of others. By following basic safety measures and observing good hygiene practices, you can help prevent accidents and waterborne illnesses and make the most of your time in the water.
Common Questions About Swimming Safety
- Q: How can I reduce the risk of drowning when swimming?
- A: Never swim alone, supervise children closely, wear a life jacket (especially when boating), learn to swim proficiently, observe “no diving” signs, and observe posted safety rules and guidelines at all times.
- Q: Can I get sick from swimming in a pool or hot tub?
- A: Yes, waterborne illnesses such as swimmer’s ear, eye infections, respiratory infections, and gastrointestinal illnesses can all be contracted from swimming in contaminated water.
- Q: Can I swim when I have diarrhea?
- A: No, you should avoid swimming when you have diarrhea to prevent the spread of illness.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Healthy Swimming. (https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/index.html)
American Red Cross. Swimming and Water Safety. (https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/water-safety/swim-safety.html)
World Health Organization. Preventing Drowning: An Implementation Guide. (https://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/publications/drowning_prev_guide.pdf)