It’s summer: time to break out the bathing suits, pack up the towels, and head to the pool. Maybe it’s your own. Maybe it’s a friend’s. Maybe it’s the community pool. But regardless, millions of Americans will hit that chlorine-laden water this summer.
Edgar Snyder’s law firm reports that around 4,900 people received emergency care per day for injuries sustained in swimming pools or spas from 2011-2013. For every child that drowns, five receive care in an emergency department for “nonfatal submersion injuries,” according to the CDC.
So how to stay safe around the pool? Basically, as Mad-Eye Moody from the Harry Potter books says, it’s all about constant vigilance. The rules around the pool are different than the rules in real life. And you need to follow them: for real.
You know how when you were a kid, the lifeguard was always whistling at you and and yelling, “Don’t run around the pool?” And you thought it was totally annoying, because what was possibly going to happen? Well, a lot, potentially. Water gets splashed out of the pool constantly, creating a slippery surface: perfect for slips, trips, and falls. Pools are made of concrete. What happens when your (soft, vulnerable) head hits the (hard, unyielding) concrete — and then you slip into a body of water? Not good.
Watch Children At All Times
Do not read your novel. Do not play on your phone. Do not stare at the mom next to you while you talk. Watch. Your. Kids. Because kids can drown in a matter of seconds, and it doesn’t look like the flailing, shouting, screaming mess you imagine from the movies. Drowning is swift, silent, and almost imperceptible struggle if you aren’t paying attention.
And then there’s horseplay. I know, horseplay is half the fun. But it’s hard to gauge when horseplay becomes something more dangerous. The practice of “ducking” or “dunking” each other — one a certain age of child and teen is particularly prone to — can have unintentionally disastrous or even fatal consequences. Someone pushed into the pool could be unable to swim, or could hit their head on the way down. It’s not worth the danger.
We know the alcohol consumption is a leading cause of boating deaths. We don’t have statistics of how often it’s involved in pool drowning deaths, but we can surmise it’s not too rare. Alcohol lowers your inhibitions and makes you more likely to take stupid risks. Alcohol could increase the risk of making stupid diving mistakes, like misjudging the depth of the water.
In the British Journal of Medicine, researchers found that alcohol contributed to 10-30 percent of all recreational drowning deaths. You could slip and fall. Guardian Interlock recommends either not drinking, or waiting an hour per drink consumed before swimming.
Keep An Eye On Your Stuff
Our personal items are often vulnerable when left alone near the poolside — room keys, wallets, cell phones and more. It doesn’t take much for anyone to quickly make off with these things while you’re splashing about. If a locker is available for rental, consider that. Otherwise, either have someone stay with the items — especially if you happen to have something valuable nearby — or at the very least, make sure your gear is both easily visible from the pool and tough to get to for a would-be thief. It doesn’t seem like a huge step to shove a purse under a beach chair or wrap up that room key in your cover-up, but it might be enough to make a difference.
[If you are traveling with valuables, there are better solutions. Check out our Security Tips For Transporting Valuables.]
Be Aware Of Depths When Diving
Always know the depth of the water into which you’re diving. Diving can cause spinal-cord injuries when the head strikes the bottom of the pool, compressing and possibly breaking the spinal cord. The New York State Department of Health estimates that 800 of these injuries occur in the U.S. every year, and that 90 percent occur in less than six feet of water. The American Red Cross, they say, recommends a minimum of nine feet in water depth when diving from a pool deck. Moreover, they do not recommend running and diving. Neither do Swoperl and Rodanthe, who note that only 10 percent of diving accidents involve a diving board. Most involve, instead, running and jumping and misjudged distances.
Consider The Pool’s General Safety
Use your gut. Is there a lifeguard on duty? Are items allowed in the pool? Is it overcrowded? Are people acting exhibiting unsafe behavior? If you’re at a friend’s house, is there a fence around the pool? Is it well-lit at night? Maybe it’s best to swim at a different time/place if the pool doesn’t feel right.
Don’t Swim Alone
The American Red Cross says that a responsible person should be designated to watch whenever people are in the pool, and no one should ever be in the pool when no one else is around.