Summer and swimming go together in northern and central Wisconsin. Many people have fond memories of summer outings with family and friends.

But whether you go to the lake or the community pool, there are a few safety tips you should keep in mind to keep you and your loved ones safe and your memories pleasant.

  1. Never swim alone. Even accomplished swimmers can experience emergency situations when they are in the water. It’s important to have someone nearby who can help you if you’re in distress.
  2. Don’t dive in shallow or unknown areas. Hitting your head while diving can cause a concussion, unconsciousness, or broken vertebrae in your neck and back, resulting in paralysis or drowning. As many as two out of three spinal cord injuries result from diving injuries.
  3. Know your body’s limits. Don’t swim when your too tired. Most muscle and joint injuries happen when people push themselves to perform beyond their limits. Even with water’s buoyant qualities shoulder injuries can happen. When you are swimming, losing movement in your shoulder can make it harder to get to the shore or edge of the pool.
  4. Remember, there is no-such thing as a pool-safe child. Children may stray into the pool area for many reasons. Some may go after a favorite toy, others may be chasing the family cat, still others may be watching a beetle crawl across the deck. It doesn’t matter why or how a child enters the pool area; it is a dangerous place for a small child. Door alarms, fencing, locked enclosures, and secured doors can help prevent tragedy.

    According to the American Red Cross, accidental drownings are the second-leading cause of death for children who are between 2 and 14 years of age in the United States.

  5. Appoint a designated water watcher when people, especially children, are swimming. Being beside the pool is not enough. One person always needs to keep their eyes scanning the water to make sure no one needs help.
  6. Remember, drowning often happens silently. When a person is struggling in the water, you may see their head bobbing up and down and see their arms flailing as they try to keep themselves afloat. A drowning person rarely screams for help. If they are not seen and helped in time, they may slip silently under the water.
  7. Don’t rely on floaties; they are not lifesaving devices. Floaties and other plastic pool toys can create a false sense of security for parents and children. Young people who cannot swim should always wear an approved life jacket.
  8. If your child wears a lifejacket, make sure it fits properly.

  9. Know where the pool filters are and how to shut them off. Many people, especially children, have been severely injured or drowned after they were entrapped by the older types of pool filters. Since the suction is so strong, the only way to free a person trapped by a pool filter is to shut it off.
  10. If the lake, pond, river, or stream contains blue-green algae, don’t go in. Blue-green algae are really cyanobacteria. According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, an algae bloom may contain one of the four types of toxins which cause illness or death in people and animals. The toxins can be absorbed through the skin, inhaled when boating or jet skiing, or ingested while swimming.

    The DNR suggests people and animals avoid “water that looks like ‘pea soup’, green or blue paint, or that has a scum layer or puffy blobs floating on the surface.

    There are two simple tests to determine if algae or cyanobacteria is growing in the water. The stick test and the jar test can help you determine what is growing in the lake. If you have any doubts about the water condition, stay out. Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) is nothing to fool around with; it can cause severe illness and death.

These are just a few of the water-safety tips to be aware of when you’re active near water. For more in-depth information, check out the Swimming and Water Safety Manual from the American Red Cross.