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Be Cool at the Pool

When I was a young girl, I used to love to go swimming in the summertime. One of the rules of our household was that we had to have our chores done before we could go swimming. I would wake up early (for me) and get my chores done by noon so that I could go swimming in the afternoon. I remember being one of the first ones in line and walking into the quiet locker room, entering the empty pool deck, looking at the still water, and watching the first kid jump and splash into the pool. I can still hear their "WHOA!" today.

Through all those hours spent at the pool, I learned some great health and safety tips to have a fun time swimming.

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1. Be Ready. Going to the swimming pool has its own "getting ready" checklist. As an adult, I am a fan of checklists. Having one, even if it is only a mental checklist, is important for the swimming pool. Naturally, you want to have your bathing suit and towel. Rinsing off at home will help you and the kids get ready by getting rid of any dirt, sweat, and grime that has accumulated on your skin before going to the pool. If you can't rinse off at home, you should rinse off before getting into the pool. Whenever possible, you want to apply sunscreen to clean skin. This also is a good time to check for any possible open sores, which should not be exposed to water. You also should have life jackets or other flotation assistance for inexperienced swimmers.

2. Get A Swimming Buddy. Before you even get to the pool, before you even dive into the water, you should have a swimming buddy picked. This is someone you know and with whom you will hopefully be swimming. A buddy increases your fun swimming and also increases your safety. If something happens, at least there is one person who knows where you are and where you were swimming last.

3. Know Your Skill Level. Not everyone who goes to the public pool is an excellent swimmer, and that's okay. It's important that you acknowledge and understand your swimming skill level before you go swimming. If you are a beginning swimmer, it is not a good idea for you to swim in the deep end of the pool or jump off the diving board. If you are a beginning swimmer, you should not be in water over chest deep. Remember, it only takes a few seconds to drown, and lifeguards have many people to watch. Don't put your life at risk for a moment of fun.

3. Don't Pee or Poo in the Pool. Even though there is chlorine in the water to destroy different types of bacteria, human waste should not be part of the pool water. Waste, especially feces, contains large amounts of bacteria. Poop can get in the pool through an actual bowel movement, dirty diapers, or if someone gets into the pool and has diarrhea. If you have diarrhea, please do not go to the pool. If you spot what is commonly referred to as a feces "floater" notify pool personnel immediately so that it can be removed. Because accidents do happen in the pool, it is also wise not to drink the pool water.

4. Walk! Walk! Walk! I don't care what day of the week you go to the pool or where you are, you will hear lifeguards blow their whistles and yell, "Walk!" Running at the pool can cause serious injury to yourself and others. If you are running, you could slip in a wet spot and hit your head. You could turn your ankle or scrape your knee. Running with a child may mean you drop the child and you both get injured. The worst-case scenario for running at the pool would be that you fall, hit your head, and fall into the water and drown. Don't put your life at risk for a few seconds. The other side of the pool will still be there when you get there. Walk. Don't run.

5. Take A Break. When I was a kid, we had required "pool checks" every other hour on the hour for 15 minutes. Not only was it a good time for the lifeguards to check the pool, but it also gave swimmers a chance to take a break. Although it may not seem strenuous, swimming uses a lot of major muscle groups. Sometimes, swimmers don't feel as tired because the buoyancy of the water takes some of the pressure off the body. Swimming is a physical activity. Four hours of swimming and playing can be exhausting. A tired swimmer is an at-risk swimmer.

6. Relax If Rescued. If for some reason, you find yourself in a situation where you need to be rescued, try your best not to panic. As someone who has pulled swimmers in crisis from the water, it was so much easier if the swimmer relaxed and trusted me. Lifeguards and other personnel are trained to rescue swimmers in the proper way. Fighting the lifeguard or rescuer or panicking in a rescue situation could result in both of you drowning. If someone throws you a life preserver or other life-saving device, take hold of it. Again, lifeguards and other rescue personnel are trained in making sure you get to safety. I understand the situation is very scary, but relaxing, listening, and following the directions of the person rescuing you will make sure you will be back to the side or shore safely.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Healthy Swimming. Steps of Healthy Swimming. Found online at:
Minnesota Department of Health. Public Swimming Pools. Found online at:
New York State. Department of Health. Swimming - True/False Questions. Found online at:
Iowa Department of Public Health. Iowa Swimming Pools and Spas. Found online at: