14 things lifeguards wish you knew about water safety

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Taking a dip in the pool or spending a day in the salty ocean water is one of the best outdoor activities. But the water, as fun as it may be, can also be one of the biggest summer health hazards. Because the best kind of summer is a safe summer, there are a lot of water safety tips that you need to know before you take a dive, and no one knows more about water safety than lifeguards. To find out the essential things you need to know about swimming and splashing, we spoke with five former and current lifeguards to discover the things they want you to know about water safety.


Always pay attention to your own kids

A day at the pool is an absolute must-do summer activity. And while lifeguards are there to make sure the water and the general pool area are safe, they're not there specifically to watch your children. You are in charge of making sure your kids aren't getting into things they shouldn't be or doing things above their limits. And, please, discipline your own kids.


Check water depth before getting in

One of the lifeguards we spoke with said that most of her saves took place at the end of a waterslide when guests would splash into an 11-foot-deep pool and then have to swim to the side to get out. Before you go on a waterslide or do a cannonball into the deep end, make sure that the depth is something you are comfortable with. If you are not a strong swimmer, stick to areas you can stand in.


If you're 6 feet tall, you can't stand in 6-foot-deep water

A 6-foot pool depth means that the particular body of water is 6 feet deep from top to bottom. That does not mean a 6-foot-tall person will be able to comfortably stand in that area; your entire head would actually be under water. If you're not a strong swimmer, try to stay in an area where you can comfortably stand with your head and shoulders above the waterline.


Drowning often doesn't look like drowning

Picture a person drowning: They're probably splashing around, trying to get themselves afloat while exerting a ton of energy and making a lot of noise, right? Wrong. Despite what TV and movies show you, drowning is actually a quiet event. A real drowning person will not be able to call out for help or wave their arms. Instead, they will be vertical in the water and their heads will bob below and slightly above the surface, with their mouth at water level. They will gasp for air, their eyes will be closed or glossed over, hair will be covering their face and they will look like they are climbing a ladder or trying to roll over onto their backs. Knowing what a drowning person looks life is one of the most important summer safety tips.


Getting out of a rip current can be counterintuitive

One of our lifeguards spent her summers at the beach, and knows the ocean can be one of the most dangerous places on Earth. If you get swept up in a current, be sure to remain calm. You'll want to actually swim with the current and parallel to the shore while looking for breaking waves, which indicate the current's end. Once you get out of the current swim back to shore diagonally and away from the current.


Know your own abilities

If you struggle to keep your head above water when you're not in an innertube on the lazy river, don't try to jump the waves in the wave pool. It can be hard to realize you're not a strong swimmer, but knowing your own abilities and limits is the first step to staying safe.


No diving means NO diving

Even if that water is 12 feet deep, if the sign says no diving, then there is a really good reason for it. And no diving means exactly what it indicates; don't dip into the pool head first in that 4-foot-deep section.


Pool noodles are not flotation devices

Read the tag on that pool noodle you bought for a little fun at your hotel's swanky rooftop pool. It is not to be used as a flotation device. Pool noodles are great for lounging around the water or pretending like you're riding a seahorse, but they are not a substitute for a life jacket or life buoy, so do not treat it like one.


Seriously: Walk, don't run

Picture a stereotypical lifeguard, what are they doing? They're probably blowing a shiny red whistle and yelling "Walk! Don't run!" at some pre-teen, right? Well, that stereotype (and the ensuing advice) exist for a reason. Pool decks are seriously slippery, and if you run around them, you risk falling on the hard surface and injuring yourself or those around you.


Shallow water can be more dangerous than deep water

The deepest areas of the pool or ocean may seem like they're the most dangerous (and they certainly are the most intimidating), but shallow waters have their own dangers, too. If you jump in, you can easily scrape your knuckles or hit your head. Also, because shallow water feels safe, you may pay less attention to your child or your own body's needs.


Showering before and after a swim is seriously important

There are a lot of ways that a pool can make you sick, so showering before and after you get out of the water is a must-do. Chlorine can kill a lot of bacteria, but it doesn't get everything. If you want to avoid getting ill from any of the number of things you'll encounter in a pool, be sure to shower off after you take a dip. And be a courteous swimmer; shower before you get in the water too. You don't want to make the pool even dirtier than it was before you swam, right?


Small children should always wear life jackets

Like we mentioned, drowning is actually a quiet death, and according to the CDC, one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger. You may think your kid is safely in sight, but if they are going to be near the water, be it on a boat, on the beach or sitting by the pool, make sure they have a life jacket on.


Use common sense on the diving board

A diving board can be seriously fun, but it can also be one of the most dangerous things about summer. Don't bounce more than once on a diving board, one lifeguard warned. Doing so greatly increases your risk of falling off and causing yourself and others in the water injury. Also be sure to wait until the person in front of you has dived into the water before you approach the diving board.


The '30 minutes rule' is a myth

Everyone's mother told them the same thing: You need to wait 30 minutes after eating to take a dip in the pool! Why? Because as your body digests food, you're more likely to get cramps and drown. Luckily for people who like to eat delicious burgers and then dive into the water, this is pure myth, along with these other health and safety tips you learned in school that are totally bogus.

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