While swimming is a fun way to be physically active, it can also be dangerous. In Tennessee in 2013, 87 people died from drowning, including 17 children. To prevent these tragedies, as well as injuries and illnesses, follow these water safety tips from the state of Tennessee and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Prevent Drowning or Injury
- Learn how to swim. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends swimming lessons for most children 4 years old and older, and for younger children depending on their frequency of exposure to water, emotional maturity, physical limitations and health concerns related to swimming pools.
- Many Tennessee State Parks offer swimming lessons.
- Get a list of state parks with swimming opportunities, including pools, beaches, or streams and creeks.
- Provide supervision. Closely supervise children at all times when they are in or near water, even if there is a lifeguard present. Most accidents can be prevented with increased supervision. Adults should avoid distracting activities like playing cards, reading books, talking on the phone and using alcohol or drugs. Never leave infants or children unattended in water—even in the bathtub.
- Team up. Teach your child to always swim with a buddy.
- Wear a life jacket. Be "water wise" by always wearing a U.S. Coast Guard–approved personal flotation device (life jacket) around oceans, rivers or lakes or when participating in water sports, even if you or your child knows how to swim. Be aware of undercurrents and undertows when at the ocean or lake.
- Do not use air-filled or foam toys such as water wings, noodles or inner tubes, in place of life jackets. These toys are not designed to keep swimmers safe.
- Life jackets can be used in and around pools for young or inexperienced swimmers.
- Learn boating safety tips from the CDC and the U.S. Coast Guard.
- Just say no to horseplay. Never run around the pool, as surfaces can be slippery and dangerous. Flip-flops can easily trip a child, especially when running. Teach your child not to jump or push others into the water. Don’t ever dive into unknown bodies of water. Jump feet first to avoid hitting your head beneath shallow water. If a sign says swimming isn’t allowed, it’s there for a reason.
- Fence it off. Prevent unsupervised swimming by installing and maintaining a four-sided, 5-foot-tall isolation fence with self-closing and self-latching gates at a height that children can’t reach around a backyard swimming pool. Also place a weight-bearing cover over the pool when not in use.
- Add security. Use automatic interior door locks and alarms for windows, doors and pools.
- Be prepared. Keep a safety kit near the pool, including a first-aid kit, flashlight, flotation device, blanket, dry towels, whistle, phone and rescue equipment (such as a shepherd’s hook, which is a long pole with a hook on the end). If you’re traveling, make sure to bring a travel health kit that includes your child’s medications.
- Learn what to do if your child stops breathing. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, is a lifesaving method used when someone’s breathing or heartbeat has stopped. Parents, caregivers and pool owners should learn CPR and drowning prevention techniques.
In addition to the risk of drowning, water can also hold viruses and bacteria that cause illness. Germs on and in swimmers’ bodies end up in the water and can make people sick. Help keep swimming areas clean by following a few simple steps:
- Practice good hygiene. Shower with soap before swimming, and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers.
- Be attentive. Take children on frequent bathroom breaks or check diapers often.
- Keep clean. Change diapers in a bathroom or a diaper-changing area, not at poolside.
- Cover your feet. Wear sandals when outside the pool to protect your feet against fungi and bacteria.
Sun Safety Tips
Avoid harmful damage from the sun by:
- Wearing a waterproof sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher
- Water reflects and intensifies the sun's rays, so kids need protection that lasts. Waterproof sunscreens may last up to 80 minutes in the water, but be sure to reapply sunscreen when kids come out of the water.
- Wearing a large hat and sunglasses to block the sun’s harmful rays
- Taking frequent breaks from the sun by moving into the shade (This is especially important between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun's rays are strongest.)
- Drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration