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Every parent knows to be vigilent when it comes to their kids and water safety, but what about taking care to stay safe in the pool, lake, and ocean as adolescents and adults? Knowing water safety best practices can empower you and provide you with peace of mind around the water, so you can live life to the fullest during summer and throughout the year.

Know Your Skill Level

If you don't know how to swim, activities on or near water can be risky. If you're planning to spend a lot of time at the lake, prioritize lessons so you feel safe and comfortable and have more options for fun. Using inflatable safety devices can also help.

If you're a skilled swimmer, on the other hand, it's important not to be overconfident in your abilities. Misjudged distances and muscle tiredness can put even the most avid swimmer at risk.

part of a swimming pool no_limit_pictures / Getty Images

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Pay Attention to Weather and Temperature

You don't want to be out swimming if there's a thunderstorm on the horizon. As soon as you see the weather turning, make your way back to land. Also make sure to feel the water before you dive in. If it's cold, you may need a wetsuit. Don't underestimate the difference cold water makes. Your body needs to expend more energy keeping itself warm, so it will have less to spare for swimming.

legs of young woman testing water temperature in a resort Alberto van Herckenrode / Getty Images

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Wear a Life Vest

Experts suggest wearing United States Coast-Guard-approved life vests. The jacket should fit you properly. Even for longtime swimmers, it's essential to don a vest for water sports in water with a current or whirlpools. If you go tubing on a river, put your life vest on, no matter the distance or your confidence.

Life Jacket on deck ramsgaard / Getty Images

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Be Mindful of Rip Currents

Here's what to do if you're at the beach and find yourself in the scary position of being pulled away from the shore:

Stay as calm as possible and wave or yell for help. Swim or float parallel to the coastline, not against the current, or you'll lose steam. Once free of the rip current, swim diagonally back towards shore.

Sea wave Sitikka / Getty Images

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How to Identify a Rip Current

It's challenging for the untrained eye to spot a rip current, but you can practice spotting them. Even if you're standing in shallow, waist-deep water, the force of the water can pull you in, so it's worth knowing the signs. Rip tides are often deeper than surrounding water and tend to look darker. Look out for narrow gaps between breaking waves.

Seaweed, rocks and ocean currents Andi Edwards / Getty Images

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Don't Drink and Swim

Avoid swimming if you've been drinking alcohol. The substance can lower your inhibitions and decrease coordination and balance. You need both to safely participate in water sports and give hazards a wide berth.

Booze is responsible for many drowning incidents, so stay smart and caution or keep an eye on any friends or family you're with who aren't being as careful.

Cocktails near swimming pool ilkersener / Getty Images

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Think Before You Dive

Diving is great fun and can make you feel like a beautiful dolphin. But, if you don't know the depth of the water, going in hands- or headfirst is a bad idea. Water should be at least 10 to 12 feet deep to accommodate diving or you risk hitting the bottom unexpectedly.

The height you're jumping from also matters. To ensure you stay safe, enter lakes, ponds, and rivers feet first, never head-first. Be cautious of murky waters that can conceal hazards.

Jumping in the clear Lake Ratchaprapha, Khao Sok National Park, Thailand 4FR / Getty Images

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Don't Dismiss Lifeguards

If you have the option or the area is unknown to you, it's best to swim when a qualified lifeguard is on duty. Not only do they keep an eye out for signs of distress, but they observe the swimming conditions and make recommendations accordingly. Swim in the designated area indicated by flags and only swim at the designated times.

lifeguard on duty tose / Getty Images

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Never Swim Alone

Lifeguards are only human. With large crowds to watch over, they might not catch every potential issue. That's where a swimming buddy comes in. Taking a companion along is prudent, especially in unpredictable swimming environments—a friend can signal for help if necessary or directly assist.

If you're out with a less experienced friend, ensure you're a strong enough swimmer or know CPR so you can deal with emergencies as well.

friends swimming in lakes AleksandarNakic / Getty Images

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Communicate

Even if you go swimming with a buddy, unforeseen issues can arise. This is why letting a third party know where you're going and what time to expect you back is crucial. A third person who isn't swimming, only observing, can also have the swimmers' backs, poised to make a call in a rare emergency.

Planning for the worst, however unlikely, will make everyone feel safer and ensure you can focus on summer fun, not potential dangers.

Happy women talking while enjoying swim together Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

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Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.

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