Swimming
Splash Safely


Make swimming safer by following these simple rules

DESIGNATE AT LEAST ONE "WATER WATCHER," EVEN IF THERE'S A LIFEGUARD ON DUTY. This person shouldn't be doing anything except keeping an eye on kids who are in or near the water, so talking on a cell phone or reading are off-limits, says Meri-K Appy, president of the nonprofit Safe Kids USA. The younger the kids, the more water watchers you need.

WALK INTO THE WATER BEFORE DIVING. This is important even if you've swum there before. Water levels can change from year to year, and diving into a too-shallow lake or river can cause serious (or fatal) head and neck trauma, says Appy.

TEACH YOUR FAMILY HOW TO COPE WITH RIP CURRENTS. These fast moving ocean currents can quickly drag even a strong swimmer out to sea, but inexperienced swimmers may be especially at risk, according to the United States Lifesaving Association. The best plan:Don't fight the current;tread water or float until you're out of it, then swim to shore. (Young kids and those who can't swim should never be in the ocean by themselves.)

IF YOU OWN A POOL,BUY AN "ANTIENTRAPMENT" DRAIN COVER. These prevent a child from getting his hair,bathing suit or a body part stuck in the drain,says Appy, and municipal pools are already mandated to have them.The device (it should say "anti-entrapment" on it) is dome-shaped with wedges at different heights and designed to prevent the suction from getting too strong. Prices range from $30 to $120 (at pool supply stores);pay to have it professionally installed so you know it's done right.

REMIND TEENS THAT ALCOHOL AND SWIMMING DON'T MIX. Alcohol impairs motor skills,reaction time and judgment,which can increase the risk of drowning as well as nonfatal but extremely serious brain damage due to being underwater for too long, says Matthew Denenberg, MD, medical direc tor for pediatric emergency medicine at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital, Grand Rapids,Michigan.

ACT QUICKLY IN AN EMERGENCY. Call 911 or get a lifeguard's attention right away if it looks like someone is drowning. Get her out of the water, position her on her back, and keep her neck still in case there's a spinal cord injury, says Dr. Denenberg. If she's not breathing, start CPR (chest compressions) while you wait for help.