Water Sports Safety - Swimming
Drowning is the third leading cause of accidental death in the United States. Only traffic mishaps and falls cause more accidental fatalities. In the U.S. about 7,000 people drown annually, many while swimming or boating. The following instructions should serve as a safety checklist for anyone, however experienced, involved with water sports.
Swimming. Learning to swim and observing basic safety rules are vital components of safe swimming. Every member of the family should learn to swim at an early age. Competent swimming instructors are available almost everywhere. The elderly or those who are sick or out of condition should consult a physician before beginning a swimming program.
There are certain times when, however good a swimmer you are, you should not go into the water. Never swim alone. Always swim with a companion and know where that person is at all times. Swim only in areas protected by lifeguards. If such an area is not available, be sure that the water bottom has no snags, trash, or weeds. Never swim immediately after eating a large meal because it might cause muscle cramps. Never swim after drinking alcohol because it dulls the senses, especially the awareness of cold. Never swim when feeling tired or cold.
Before going into the water, pay careful attention to warning signs. If you swim in the ocean or a river, you should know about tides and currents.
Water for diving should be deep and clear. Never dive into unfamiliar water, and always look carefully for other swimmers before you dive. When swimming, stay away from diving boards and diving platforms.
The sun can seem deceptively cool when you are in the water, and it is possible not to realize until later that you have been badly burned across the shoulders and back.
Never sunbathe on an inflatable raft or air mattress in a large lake or in the ocean. You could drift a long way from the shore and be unable to swim back.
Children should always be closely supervised around water. A child can drown in the time it takes to answer the telephone.
Only a trained lifeguard should attempt a swimming rescue. Even a competent swimmer can be pulled under by a drowning person. However, if a person gets into trouble near the shore in an unsupervised swimming area, wade out and help him or her. Reach for the victim or try to extend a pole, tree branch, fishing rod, or oar. If the victim is beyond reach, throw something that floats, such as a spare tire or a cooler. If these attempts fail, then wade, swim, or row to the victim.
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