Child Safety: Public Swimming Pool

When taking your children to a public swimming pool, teach them to practice safety tips like these to reduce the risk of injury or accident.

It used to be that kids who lived in the country would meander down to the swimming hole to cool off on a hot summer day. No one issued strict behavior rules or posted lifeguards. All kids then got was a "Be careful!" from Mom or Dad.

Times have changed. City dwellers make their way to the centrally located swimming pool, funded and maintained by public administrators or private entrepreneurs. The owners and overseers post rules and lifeguards to protect the safety and well-being of local swimmers and sunbathers. The rules typically remind users not to rough house in the pool or run along the walkway to prevent slipping and falling or bumping someone into the pool. In addition, however, parents should remind their children of several things for their protection:

1. Kids should avoid pool patrons who are drunk or unstable. Such people will probably be asked to leave, but before that happens someone under the influence of medicine or alcohol could fall or even start to drown, and clutch at someone to hold onto, pulling down another victim with him. Children also should avoid strangers who might seem nice and then attempt to abduct them when parents aren't around.

2. Remind kids to wear sunscreen. After the first application before getting into the water, additional lotion should be applied every 30 to 60 minutes for maximum protection against sunburn. If more than one child will be at the pool, instruct them to help each other apply lotion to hard-to-reach areas like shoulders and backs.

3. Don't forget sunglasses and a hat. Naturally they won't wear these items in the pool, but while taking short breaks as mandated by the lifeguards who patrol the water periodically for possible drowning victims and to ensure all patrons rest a few minutes each hour or two. Kids need to protect their eyes and head as much as the rest of their bodies while out in the sun.

4. Have the kids change into dry clothes after swimming. They can use the restrooms or changing areas to shower the chlorinated pool water off their skin and then dry off before dressing in regular clothes. Wearing wet clothing for long periods of time can irritate the skin and cause rashes.

5. Never swim in questionable pools. If the pool water appears dirty or hasn't been cleaned in some time, find another place to swim. Open water is a breeding ground for bacteria, and people who submerge themselves in affected water can get skin infections that may take a week or more to clear up. Patronize pools with good reputations and where there have been no known incidents of skin conditions.

6. Reinforce the pool rules. Parents should support the posted rules by reminding their children to obey them by not running, screaming, or throwing large objects in the water. Children should not dive off the board if they have never learned how to do so properly, nor should they enter water over their heads if they don't know how to swim. Anyone can drown in a few inches of water under the right conditions, so train kids to treat the pool with respect.

Public swimming is a great way to enjoy warm weather and have fun with friends. But it is important to follow rules to keep the pool safe and enjoyable for everyone.

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