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7/1/22 blog post

6 safety tips for swimming in open water

keep the whole family safe this summer

The region has had record-breaking heat already this year and more hot days are predicted to come. Many of us are looking for ways to cool down and heading to the creek, river or lake may seem like a great way to enjoy the summer while getting some relief from the heat. However, open water, like the area’s many lakes and rivers, can pose a real danger to kids.    

“Sadly, our community has suffered from this tragedy recently and we want to offer caregivers some tips to make open water safe for the whole family,” says Abbey Pettiford, injury prevention coordinator at Dayton Children’s. 

While some of the risks of swimming in open water are the same as swimming in the pool, there are added dangers when you are in open water. First, it is hard to judge how deep the water is or how fast the current is moving. Open water can conceal plants, rocks or debris at the bottom that may cause injury. There can be steep drop-offs and rapid water temperature changes.

“Families also share open water with animals and boats, which each have their own associated dangers,” says Pettiford. 

Here are a few tips that can keep the whole family safe in open waters:  

  1. Wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket when boating or participating in other activities on the water. Children should wear one appropriate for their age, weight and water activity. For kids younger than five, choose a version with head support and a strap between the legs. 
  2. Teach children that swimming in open water is different from swimming in a pool. Be aware of situations that are unique to open water and alert your children to those conditions. 
  3. Watch kids when they are in or around water, without being distracted. Keep young children and inexperienced swimmers within arm’s reach of an adult. Make sure older children swim with a partner every time. 
  4. Use designated swimming areas and recreational areas. Professionals have assessed these areas, and there are usually signs posted regarding hazards and lifeguard schedules. 
  5. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends enrolling children in swim lessons. Consider their age, development and how often they are around water when deciding if they are ready. 
  6. Make sure kids can do these five water survival skills:
    • Step or jump into water over their head and return to the surface 
    • Turn around and orient to safety 
    • Float or tread water 
    • Combine breathing with forward movement in the water 
    • Exit the water 

Enjoy the summer and beat the heat safely, Find more open water safety tips from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Abbey Pettiford

Injury Prevention Coordinator
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