Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

June 25, 2013

Keep it safe in the water

Kokomo Tribune

---- — With the National Weather Service forecasting oppressive heat and humidity that could send heat indexes to near 100 degrees Fahrenheit all this week, particularly today and Wednesday, many of us will be heading to the water for a chance to cool off. The American Red Cross has some tips to keep it safe.

First of all, learn to swim. There are lots of swimming courses available.

To find one nearby, contact the Red Cross at 765-459-4162, or visit the organization’s website at redcrossofnci.org.

Even if you know how to swim, never swim alone, and avoid swimming in areas without a lifeguard.

Watch children around water, no matter how skilled they might be and no matter how shallow the water. Try to keep younger children within an arm’s length.

Equip children or inexperienced swimmers with U.S. Coast Guard-approved floatation devices, but never rely on those as a substitute for parental supervision. Such devices can suddenly shift position, lose air or slip away, leaving the child floundering in the water.

When swimming at a lake or on the river, select an area that has good water quality and safe natural conditions. Murky water, hidden underwater objects, unexpected drop-offs and aquatic plant life are hazards.

The Red Cross suggests paying attention to local weather conditions and forecasts. Pop-up thunderstorms are possible every day this week, so stop swimming at the first indication of bad weather.

Unless the area is clearly marked for diving, the Red Cross urges swimmers always to enter the water feet first.

Never mix alcohol with swimming, diving or boating. Alcohol impairs your judgment, balance and coordination, affects your swimming and diving skills, and reduces your body’s ability to stay warm.

It’s a good idea to stay away from drinks containing alcohol or caffeine. They can make you feel good briefly, but they end up making the heat’s effects on your body worse. This is especially true with beer, which dehydrates the body.

Drink plenty of water even if you do not feel thirsty. Your body needs water to keep cool.

Protect your skin. Limit the amount of direct sunlight you receive between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and wear a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 15.

The water can be a great place to cool off on a hot summer day, but tragedy can strike in an instant. Let’s all be careful out there.