The warm weather has arrived, the perfect time to take a dip in a pool or visit a water park or the seashore. The American Red Cross recommends steps you should take to help stay safe around the water, especially during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“Due to the pandemic, most swimming pools, water parks and beaches were closed last season. Many facilities are open again, although some are not and others have limited hours,” said Allison Taylor, Regional Executive of the American Red Cross Greater Carolinas. “If you are planning to visit a public pool, beach or water park, check with state, local, tribal or territorial regulations before you make the trip.”
According to the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stay home if you are sick. If you are fully vaccinated, you can resume activities without wearing a mask or social distancing. Again, check with state, local, tribal or territorial regulations.
If you are not fully vaccinated, stay at least 6 feet away, both in and out of the water, from people you don’t live with. Wear a mask when you are not in the water. Wash your hands often and don’t share items with people you don’t live with. Information on finding a vaccine is available here.
“As you head back to the water, take it slow,” says Taylor, “Give yourself and your children time to reacclimate to swimming and being around the water, especially in water that is more than chest deep. Swimming skills and fitness in the water could both be a little rusty for those who have been out of the water for the last year or longer.”
Designate a “water watcher” to keep a close eye and constant attention on children and weaker swimmers in and around the water until the next water watcher takes over.
- Always swim with a buddy in a lifeguarded area and follow the rules of the facility.
- Provide close and constant attention to those you are supervising in the water.
- Stay within arm’s reach of young children and new swimmers.
- Check the water depth and don’t swim or play beyond your swimming abilities.
- Children, weak or non-swimmers, and all boaters should wear a properly fitted U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
- Watch the weather and get out of the water at the first sign of lightning or rumble of thunder. Stay indoors and away from the water for 30 minutes after the last lightning flashes or thunder roars.
- Swimming in the ocean, a lake or river is different than swimming in a pool. Be sure you have the skills for these environments.
- Swim only at a beach with a lifeguard, within the designated swimming area. Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards and ask them about local conditions.
- Make sure you swim sober and that you always swim with a buddy.
- Protect your neck—don’t dive in headfirst. Check for water depth and obstructions and walk carefully into open waters.
- Know your limitations and make sure you have enough energy to swim back to shore.
- If you are caught in a rip current, try not to panic. Signal to those on shore that you need assistance. Stay calm and don’t fight it. Swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current. Once you are free, swim toward shore. If you can’t swim to the shore, float or tread water until you are free of the rip current and then head toward shore.
WATER PARK SAFETY
- Make sure lifeguards are on duty before you go in the water and follow all their instructions.
- Wear protective clothing, including a hat and some kind of cover-up for when you’ve had enough sun.
- Use waterproof sunscreen before leaving home and reapply during the day and drink plenty of fluids
- Read the signage at each waterpark attraction—including height, weight or age requirements, water depth, health and safety advisories, and how to safely use the attraction.
- Parents—keep an eye on the kids. If they can’t swim or are less than four feet tall, have them wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket.
- Signal a lifeguard if you see someone is in trouble. Yell if you need to grab attention, but don’t go in after the person yourself.
- Set up a meeting place in case someone gets separated from your group. Use the buddy system to make sure no child is alone.
BEFORE HEADING OUT
Download the Red Cross Swim app, sponsored by The ZAC Foundation, for safety tips, kid-friendly videos and activities, and take the free Water Safety for Parents and Caregivers online course. Additional tips and resources are available at redcross.org/watersafetyforkids.