Las Vegas Sun

October 21, 2020

Currently: 99° — Complete forecast

Tips for staying safe in pools, lakes, rivers and more

Water Safety

It’s hot as Hades outside, and fall seems like a distant dream. But before you escape to the nearest pool or lake, take a moment to consider your safety. From drowning to sunburn and heat exhaustion, water can be a threat in several ways.

While the danger of drowning might seem remote—we all suffer from “it can’t happen to me” over-optimism—an average of more than 3,500 people a year die from unintentional drownings in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In July, for example, tragedy struck when 33-year-old actress Naya Rivera drowned in California’s Lake Piru. Her life jacket was found in the boat, unworn. According to CNN, authorities say that she died saving her 4-year-old son.

To put together this safety guide, we used the information provided by the American Red Cross and the CDC. For more information, visit or


Basic Swimming Safety

Never swim alone.Ideally, swim under the supervision of a lifeguard. If not, swim with a buddy.

Watch your kids. Children always require adult supervision.

Go feet first. Diving into water that’s too shallow can cause head and spinal injuries, and even death. Unless you’re certain the water is safe for diving, just don’t dive.

Swim sober. It might sound obvious, but it’s not safe to swim under the influence.

Learn the basics.Take swimming lessons, and enroll your children in swimming lessons.

According to the American Red Cross, these five skills are the necessary basics for safety. If you can’t perform them, stay in the shallow end, wear a life jacket and take some lessons.

Basic swimming skills to master

• Return to the surface after entering deep water.

• Float or tread water for one minute.

• In the water, turn over and turn around.

• Swim 25 yards.

• Exit the water unassisted.

Lake, river and ocean safety

Wear a life jacket. Swimming in a natural body of water can be dangerous—think currents, rapids, riptides, underwater debris and more—compared to swimming in the controlled environment of a backyard pool.

Don’t swim alone. Even if you’re a good swimmer, a sudden health issue can diminish that ability instantly.

If you see thunder or lightning,leave the water immediately.

Watch out for boats, jet skis and sudden dropoffs.

Don’t dive. In addition to water being shallower than you expect, there might be unseen trees, branches or rocks.

Save the boozing for the after-party.

All about life jackets

• Small children should always wear a life jacket. Ditto for weak swimmers.

• Everyone should wear a life jacket when swimming or boating in open water.

• Only wear life jackets approved by the U.S. Coast Guard.

• No, that hilarious unicorn floatie does NOT count as a life jacket.

• Make sure life jackets fit and are in good working order.

• Don’t just leave that life jacket on the floor of your boat. You’ve got to wear it for it to do any good.

How to make your home pool safer for kids

• Make sure your pool is fully fenced in.

• Use a self-latching gate so that the gate can’t get left open.

• Lock and alarm the doors and windows leading to the pool so that you have a second layer of protection to prevent a child from wandering into the pool.

• Use a lockable pool cover when the pool isn’t in use.

• Take the “Home Pool Essentials” online safety course. It was created by the National Swimming Pool Foundation and the American Red Cross. ($20,

General outdoor safety

• Stay hydrated.

• Avoid booze and caffeine.

• Protect yourself from the sun: Wear sunscreen, a big hat and loose-fitting clothing. Stay in the shade, and avoid the heat of the day.

• If you feel like you’re overheating, go inside and cool off.

The importance of hydration

The human body cools itself via sweating. Since we live in a desert, sweat immediately evaporates, which means a person can become dehydrated without realizing it.

To avoid heat exhaustion or other, more severe heat illnesses, continuously drink water while outside, even if you don’t feel all that thirsty.

Although we’ve been taught to avoid sports drinks due to their high sugar content, they’re helpful if you’ve been sweating a lot, according to Dr. Derek Meeks, director of the emergency department at Boulder City Hospital and a vice dean at Touro University. They will help replenish the fluids and sodium your body sweats out.

Drowning risk factors

• Lack of swimming knowledge.

• Indulging in alcohol. Booze makes for bad decisions and slow reflexes.

• The Y chromosome. According to the CDC, a whopping 80% of drowning victims are males.

• Youth. Drowning is one of the leading causes of death for children. Children ages 4 and younger are at greatest risk.

• Being overly tired. Even if you’re a strong swimmer, if you get suddenly tired or ill or get a cramp, you can get in trouble in the water.

• Having a seizure disorder. Seizures can be a cause of drowning, especially in the bathtub.

Signs of trouble

A distressed swimmer and potential drowning victim could be:

• Trying to swim but making no headway.

• Vertical in the water but not treading water or moving forward.

• Flailing their arms or appear to be climbing a ladder in an attempt to stay above water.

• Struggling to keep their head above water for up to a minute and then going underwater.

• Floating face first on the water, motionless.

What to do in an emergency

• Shout for help if you see somebody in trouble.

• Remove the person from the water without putting yourself in danger.

• Use a flotation device, pole or other tool to help safely retrieve the person. The Red Cross uses the rhyme, “Reach or throw, don’t go” to encourage people to keep themselves safe while helping distressed swimmers.

• Have somebody else call 911 while you give CPR and rescue breathing. If nobody’s available to help, give CPR for about two minutes and then call 911.

• Prepare in advance by taking a CPR class from the Red Cross. Find a class by visiting