The July 4 holiday is prime time for water fun for both adults and children. It also a time when we see an increase in injuries as the result of unsafe swimming habits.
Someone who sees these injuries firsthand is the medical director for the Emergency Department at WakeMed Apex Healthplex, Dr. Jeffrey Cook.
Whether you’ll be spending time down the road at Jordan Lake, NC beaches, a water park, or neighborhood pool, here are Dr. Cook’s tips for staying safe in the water this holiday weekend.
Top 7 Swimming Safety Tips
#1 – Take inventory of your crew’s swimming ability.
Don’t take for granted that everyone knows how to swim – even some adults can’t, and some are just barely comfortable in calm waters. Before you head out, ask around to take inventory of everyone’s swimming ability. Knowing everyone’s comfort level in water can help you know who may need additional supervision.
#2 – Know how to identify and navigate a rip tide.
Rip tides have already claimed numerous lives at NC beaches this summer. Before you leave town, take the time to learn more – as a family – about how to identify and navigate a rip tide.
The best resource I’ve seen is this video provided by National Weather Service/NOAA. Once you arrive, check the surf forecast (available from the National Weather Service) to know your specific beach’s risk for rip current and pay attention to beach warning flags.
#3 – Never swim alone.
Swimming is always safer with a buddy who can call for help should the need arise. Keep your cell phone charged and nearby.
#4 – Leave the alcohol at home.
Drinking and water do not mix – whether it’s pool, boating or in the ocean – you need to be fully aware of what’s going on to stay safe. Alcohol can lead to unsafe judgment, lack of supervision and dehydration – so save the drinks for dry land.
#5 – Don’t dive in shallow water.
Feet first is always safer! Serious head injuries can occur from diving in shallow water – particularly in murky or dark water where you can’t see the bottom. To play it safe, just don’t take the chance.
#6 – Limit horseplay.
This one’s not just for kids! Adults and kids alike can get injured when dunking, playing “chicken” or jumping on top of each other – especially if there’s alcohol involved (See #4).
#7 – Never take your eyes off of children around water.
ACTIVELY watch children. Passive presence is never adequate. Children can slip out of sight and into water quickly!
Consider a system to ensure a responsible adult is ACTIVELY monitoring children. For example, use a physical reminder that can be passed off between adults to clearly indicate who is responsible for watching children at all times (ie lanyard, pool noodle, etc). Make sure to rotate who is responsible to avoid monitoring fatigue.
About Jeffrey Cook, MD
Dr. Jeffrey Cook is the medical director for the Emergency Department at the WakeMed Apex Healthplex. He is board certified in Emergency Medicine and has been practicing at WakeMed Health and Hospitals since 2008.