STONE: Safety First Around Pools

Spring is in full gear and summer is right around the corner, meaning temperatures in the Permian Basin are heating up. Swimming pools are a common way to beat the heat. So, whether you take a dip at your private residence or swim at a local community pool, it’s important to review and adopt several water safety steps to prevent unintended injuries and deaths from occurring. Organizations such as the American Red Cross and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission offer great insight on ways to safely enjoy the pool this summer and keep you and others out of harm’s way.

First and foremost, never swim alone and never allow anyone else to swim alone either. Incorporating a “buddy system” allows for an extra set of eyes and ears to watch over you and others in the event help is needed. Drowning can happen quickly and quietly wherever there is water and even in the presence of trained professionals such as lifeguards. Swimming with a partner or group is best so, in the event that someone runs into trouble (such as getting fatigued or sustains an injury) others can respond to them before they get in distress and might otherwise become submerged underwater. Bottom line, constant supervision in the pool is necessary whenever someone is in or around the water.

While supervision is a must for all age groups, children are at higher risk for accidental drowning making it even a greater priority to observe their water activities to prevent injuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates with the majority of these events occurring in home swimming pools. Supervision of all children must be done by a competent adult, who is not distracted, knows how to swim, and has access to calling 9-1-1 in the event of an emergency. Also, if you have a pool, the American Red Cross encourages you to secure it with appropriate barriers. Many children who drown at home were out of sight for less than 5 minutes and in the care of one or both parents at the time.

Another must have around pools are flotation devices. For young and inexperienced swimmers, flotation devices (such as life jackets) are good to enjoy the water while keeping their heads above the surface. Keep in mind though, that while flotation devices can keep swimmers out of distress, they are not a substitute, nor a replacement, for continued supervision. While there are several cute, colorful, and fashionable flotation aids available, this should never trump functionality and the intended purpose of the device itself. When selecting flotation devices, make sure they are used as designed and preferably designated as United States Coast Guard approved.

Potential dangers lurk outside of the pool as well in the form of over exposure to the sun. Insuring the proper protection is essential to avoid unnecessary skin damage including premature aging and cancer. When out of the water, wearing the proper clothing can limit this exposure. Best choices include wide-brimmed hats and light colored, lightweight, loose fitting clothing which help repel heat and block UV rays from your skin. For exposed areas of your body, sunscreen should be part of your everyday regimen.

The following tips are handy in choosing the right sunscreen:

>> Make sure you see the words “broad spectrum” on the sunscreen label. This assures the product has been tested and approved to block both types of UV rays which include UVA (responsible for signs of early aging such as wrinkles and dark spots) whereas UVB are what cause sunburns.

>> Choose a product with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher.

>> Look for “water resistant” on the labeling since these products tend to stay on the skin longer and are more (although not completely) resistant to moisture.

>> Re-apply the product frequently and often … especially after activities such as swimming, drying off with a towel, or those that cause sweating.

>> Select a product you really like since you will be inclined to use. Sunscreen is only effective if used and used often.

>> Don’t forget your lips and face. Use balms or other sunscreens safe for use on these sensitive areas with a SPF rating of 30 or higher…and like other sunscreens, apply often!

>> Be sure to apply products at least 30 minutes before heading outside.

Knowing how to be safe in and around the water is just as important as enjoying it. Before you take your first plunge in the pool, make sure you and your family are swimming safety savvy to avoid hazards and prevent injuries … leaving nothing but sunshine and fun to splash the summer away.