Designate a water safety officer, wear brightly colored bathing suits, and keep children out of the waterways.

A little preparation will help you cool off safely.

If the summer heat and humidity are bothering you, you can find relief by taking a dip in the pool. Swimming pools are a great place to exercise and cool off from the scorching temperatures of the summer months. What could be better than jumping in the water on a hot, sunny day? Still, it’s important to keep safety in mind, says Jenny McQuiston, former Olympic swimmer and co-founder of Goldfish Swim School Franchise, LLC, a swim school franchise with 120 locations across the United States and one in Canada. “Every summer, families start spending more time in and around the water,” says McQuiston. “Visiting the pool with friends and family is a great way to spend time together, and kids can exercise and play. Water and summer, after all, go hand in hand.”

Stay Safe at the Pool

It’s important to stay safe and vigilant while at the pool to reduce the risk of drowning. In June, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission released a new national average of 397 annual drownings at pools or spas for children under 15. This is up from the 379 annual drowning deaths reported in the commission’s 2020 report. Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death among children under age 5. Because of COVID-19 pandemic social distancing guidelines and restrictions on attending swimming lessons, many children have limited experience with water, which can put them at increased risk for drowning.

Here are 12 tips and strategies for pool safety:

  1. Designate a water keeper.

Be sure to keep an eye on children at all times – even if lifeguards are present. Children are naturally curious and are always willing to push the boundaries without knowing the true danger. McQuiston recommends appointing an adult “aquatic guardian” to watch children in and around the pool. Be sure to change the guardian every 30 minutes to keep him or her alert and fresh. “The guardian’s only responsibility in the water should be to watch the swimmers. Vigilance is key: no talking, no checking your phone, no distractions.”

  1. Install a four-way fence.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, pool sales skyrocketed as families decided to create an oasis in their backyards where they could exercise without being exposed to the new coronavirus. According to McQuiston, new pool owners should be sure to enclose the pool with a four-sided fence and install self-closing and self-latching gates that a child can’t reach. Drowning is often silent, but there are certain steps you can take to warn of potential danger. “To prevent children from slipping out unnoticed, install secondary barriers such as pool alarms and locks on doors and windows that have direct access to the pool area. These secondary barriers will alert adults to doors and gates that open.”

  1. Know what to do in a water emergency: Act, quit, don’t leave.

A water emergency can cause feelings of anxiety, fear and panic. Knowing how to react will help you manage your emotions and act. “Make sure you and your children know what to do in a water emergency,” McQuiston says. “Your first instinct may be to head for the person having difficulty in the water. Instead, you should toss or pull out a life preserver – and not leave. That way you don’t put yourself in danger and can actually help.”

  1. Wear brightly colored swimsuits.

When shopping for summer swimsuits, avoid colors that might blend in with the water and choose swimsuits in bright colors, McQuiston recommends. Swimsuits in bright colors will stand out in the water, and they make it easier to spot a swimmer in need of assistance.

  1. Avoid unsafe holds.

Don’t engage in prolonged holding your breath underwater, advises Rowdy Gaines, U.S. Olympic gold medalist swimmer and vice president of partnerships and development at the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance. He is also a member of the board of champions for PHTA’s Step Into Swim safety initiative. Holding your breath underwater can disrupt the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide and lead to unconsciousness.

  1. Teach children to stay away from waterways.

All public pools and spas are required to comply with the Virginia Graham Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, which requires that all public pool and spa circulation systems be equipped with a properly installed protective drain cover. Although recent data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission shows that since the VGB law went into effect in 2007, there have been no fatalities involving children trapped in the suction cover at public pools and spas, it is important to check drains in every pool and spa – public or private – before allowing children to swim, says Nikki Fleming, CPSC Safe Pool Campaign Manager. “Children should not play or swim near drains or suction holes, especially in spas and shallow pools, and never enter a pool or spa that has a loose, broken or missing drain cover,” she says. “Children’s hair, limbs, jewelry or bathing suits can get stuck in the drain or suction opening. When using a spa, be sure to find an emergency vacuum shutter before going into the water.”

  1. Know how to give CPR to children and adults.

According to the American Heart Association, even if a drowning person goes into cardiac arrest, if CPR is performed immediately, it can double or even triple the victim’s chances of survival. Witnesses are often the first to help a drowning victim, especially a child, so CPR training can help save a life. It’s important to get certified in CPR, and once you get it, don’t forget to renew your certification. CPR certification courses can be taken at many hospitals, community centers or contact the American Red Cross. “Don’t think it’s too late to save someone’s life. Even if the person is unresponsive, keep doing CPR and don’t stop until medical professionals take over,” Fleming says.

  1. Read the pool rules.

Before jumping in the water, read the pool rules, which are usually posted prominently at or near the pool entrance, McQuiston says. Pool rules often include prohibiting you from swimming if you have a cold or other contagious disease, as well as running on the pool deck, diving in shallow water and bringing in recreational equipment, such as a ball, without a lifeguard’s permission. Pool rules also generally require swimmers to wear appropriate swim suits and all children to be accompanied by an adult. If you take your child to the pool, make sure he or she understands and follows the rules.

  1. Bring a life jacket.

If you or your child is a beginner swimmer and have not yet mastered water safety skills, always wear life jackets in or near the water, says Lindsay Mondick, senior director of innovation priorities, who oversees aquatic sports at the YMCA of the USA. Be sure to buy life jackets approved by the U.S. Coast Guard, she says. Not all such vests have a Coast Guard endorsement mark, which is usually on the tag inside the vest.

  1. Bring other necessary safety items with you.

In addition to life jackets, you should have basic pool safety items on hand. Be sure to bring a working, charged cell phone in case you need to call 911, as well as a first aid kit and a buoy you can throw to someone during a water emergency.

  1. Do not swim alone.

“No one should ever swim alone if there is an accident,” Mondick says. Don’t enter the water without a lifeguard or responsible friend in the pool; for children, that means a parent or guardian who can help in the event of a water accident.

  1. Check the water temperature.

Before entering the pool, check the water temperature, McQuiston says. Jumping into cold water can shock your body, raise your heart rate and blood pressure, and slow your muscles, making it difficult to swim. “Listen to your body,” she says. “If it’s too cold for you, it will be too cold for the kids. If you are uncomfortable, continue to celebrate on land. If you’re determined to get in the water, you should consider a wetsuit and stay in shallow water. Avoid swimming after it rains, as water and air temperatures will be cooler.”

In conclusion, here are 12 tips and strategies for pool safety:

  • Appoint a water guard.
  • Install a four-way fence.
  • Know what to do in a water emergency: Act, dash, don’t leave.
  • Wear brightly colored swimsuits.
  • Avoid unsafe actions.
  • Teach children to stay away from waterways.
  • Know how to give CPR to children and adults.
  • Read the rules of the pool.
  • Bring a life jacket.
  • Bring other necessary safety items.
  • Do not swim alone.
  • Check the temperature of the water.

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