Summer, kids and water-play are a powerful threesome. This Fourth of July weekend will see lakes, pools and water parks filled with families. They all require diligent parental oversight when kids are there, but lakes pose unique dangers that need particular attention.
Lakes, unlike pools and water-parks are typically not clear. You’re never quite sure what is just beneath the surface. With the prolonged drought much of the country has seen for the past few years, water levels are way down. Where there was once plenty of water between tree stumps and lake junk, there’s much less now.
While having fun is the task at hand, safety should always be the number one priority.
Make sure that the family stays together in supervised areas that are marked safe for swimming. Here are a few tips that can help keep your day at the lake a safe one for you and the kids.
Look before you leap. Parents and children should only dive head first into areas that are clearly marked for diving. Even if you're familiar with a lake or river, the conditions underwater tend to change, so go for a swim before your kids to make sure it's safe. When you dive in, make sure you're extending your arms over your head to protect your head just in case.
Keep an eye on the temperature. Your children might be fine in cold water depending on other factors, such as the wind, or whether it's sunny or cloudy out. But watch them for signs that the water temperature is too low. Look for shivering, a bluish tinge to the skin or an apathetic mood - at the extreme, swimming in too-cold water can lead to hypothermia. If you're swimming in the ocean, consider outfitting the kids in wet suits, which help retain body heat.
Be mindful of your surroundings. Most times, aquatic life isn't going to pose a danger to your children, but you should keep an eye out for potentially dangerous conditions, such as large patches of vegetation on the water surface, just in case. Kids could potentially get tangled in these patches and attract the interest of animal predators. Also avoid areas where birds are on the water eating fish; predatory animals often hover around areas where food is nearby.
Beware of the undertow. Talk to your children about how to react if they get caught in an undertow or rip current. The key is to stay calm, and since currents are strong but not very wide, swimming parallel to the shore, across the current, is the best way to come out of it. Teaching them to tread water while they call for help is another good safety measure.
Keep a watchful eye. As tempting as it may be to relax on the beach while your little ones swim, don't rely on floatation devices like water wings or rafts to keep your children safe. You should be swimming with them until they are strong enough to go it alone.
Enjoying a day at the lake is one of those summer treasures that can build lifetime memories. It’s very important to stay alert so that they are fond memories of good times together and not a day that turned into tragedy.
One last note, make sure that the kids have plenty of sunscreen on, with an SPF of at least 30, and that it is applied whenever they get out of the water. Enjoy your time together and have a great holiday weekend!
Source: Rhea Seymour, http://health.kaboose.com/active-kids/water-safety.html