Skip to Main Content

Start Of Main Content

Mother Nature's swimming hazards

This summer, make sure your family knows how swimming differs in natural waters.

Little girl splashing in a lake

Swimming in an ocean, lake, pond or river is different from swimming in a pool. You may have to battle strong currents, big waves, debris, bacteria and bad weather. Protect yourself from these and other swimming hazards with these tips.

Never Swim Alone

Always bring a friend when you plan to swim in open waters. Select a swimming spot with a lifeguard on duty, and stay within their sight. If there's no lifeguard on duty, pack your own flotation device for emergencies.

Survey the Water

Assess the water before you jump in. Look for warning signs posted near the water's edge. Also look for red flags — such as waves, debris, and excessive algae or plant growth — that could hint at hazardous swimming conditions.

Prevent Waterborne Illness

Natural bodies of water aren't chemically treated like pools, so there's a higher risk of spreading bacteria. Don't drink the water, and plug your nose when your head is submerged. Never swim while sick or with an open cut, and always shower after swimming.

Play It Safe

Avoid accidents and injury by taking common-sense precautions. You should always:

  • Stay close to land and swim within designated swimming areas.
  • Walk into unknown water — never dive. Rocks and other hazards could be just beneath the surface.
  • Insist on wearing a life jacket if you or someone with you is a weak swimmer.
  • Check the weather  Never swim when lightning is in the forecast.
  • Take a break if you begin to feel cold, tired or hungry.

Know How to Respond

Be prepared to react quickly to these emergency situations:

  • Unconscious swimmer — If you can safely get the victim to land, do so quickly. Begin CPR and call 911.
  • Hypothermia — Prevent further heat loss. Warm the victim up slowly and seek medical attention right away.
  • Rip current — Swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the riptide, then swim back to shore. If you get tired, float on your back and kick your feet.


Also Important

Camp Safely, Starting with These 7 Lessons

Camp Safely, Starting with These 7 Lessons

Pack right and set up a site that's a safe and comfortable spot for the whole family with these camping safety tips.

Safety Tips for Ocean Swimming

Safety Tips for Ocean Swimming

Keep these in mind when you hit the beach.

Related Articles

Family Cookouts and Food Safety

Family Cookouts and Food Safety

When grilling for family and friends, make sure you're careful about cooking outdoors and food safety.

The 5 Ws of Sunscreen

The 5 Ws of Sunscreen

The who, what, when, where and why of using sunscreen.

Keep It Safe When Canoeing and Kayaking

Keep It Safe When Canoeing and Kayaking

How to prepare for your next trip down the river.