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Swimming Safely: It's Truly Better To Be Seen

Swimming is equal parts safety, health, and fun. Whether you enjoy swimming for fitness or relaxation, the pool, ocean, or lake can help you create lifelong memories. As with every sport and activity, however, there are inherent risks—the most serious of which is drowning.  It is easy to misunderstand and underestimate swimming pool child safety and drowning, and this is especially true with the energy and excitement of children in the water.  

Here are just a few safety tips to keep in mind when in or around water:

1. No One is Drown-proof

No matter how accomplished you or your children are at swimming, be careful, and be aware that drowning does not discriminate. Read about All American swimmer Fran Crippen who took gold and silver medals in the Pan American and Pan Pacific games and you’ll learn that even athletes at the peak of their condition and career can drown. 

There are swim programs, floatation devices, and technologies that promote “drown proofing” or “survival skills” as a benefit. Be thoughtful and be aware of products, technologies, and programs that make these claims. Although they may have their own strengths and drawbacks, you should do your own research on each and remember that there is no such thing as drown-proof. 

2. Supervision Is Vital:

The key drowning risk issue always comes back to lack of supervision. If a device or class gives a false sense of security, a parent or caregiver might unconsciously find themselves distracted which dramatically impacts a parent’s ability to respond if something goes wrong. Remember, drowning is silent and fast. The best way to prepare is to supervise at all times and realize that drowning happens when you think it won’t.  

3. Drowning Is Silent:

If you imagine a drowning scene from a movie, you likely imagine a person splashing, yelling, and crying for help. However, in real life that’s not what drowning looks like. Drowning is silent. A drowning person is physically unable to call for help or wave their arms because the water they’ve ingested prevents it as their body is very quickly deprived of oxygen. Some signs that someone may be drowning may include: 

  • A person that’s vertical in the water with their head bobbing below or slightly above the surface.  
  • A person gasping for air with their eyes closed or glassy.  
  • A person submerged nearby (sometimes within arms-length of) a parent, friend, or family member.  

Although water is clear, it can appear blue due to the reflection from the sky or the color of the bottom of the pool. Lifeguards, who sit above the water, may find it harder to see children at the bottom of the pool who are wearing blue or black bathing suits. Choosing a brightly colored swimsuit that provides high-contrast against the water can increase visibility. Seconds matter, and being able to clearly see a swimmer in distress can mean the difference between life and death.

4. What Can I Do? 

Avoid distractions such as your phone or side conversations when children are in or around water. Drown-proofing is a myth, anyone no matter their age, athleticism, or comfortability in water can drown so be present and supervise, supervise, supervise. Pick bathing suits that are brightly colored. The most visible colors in water are high-contrasting colors, such as neon green, red, and orange. While nothing replaces an active, alert adult who is closely watching the swimmers in the water, brightly colored swimwear is just one additional safety precaution you can take while swimming.