This spring and summer, as Ohioans swarm to beaches, pools and farmyard ponds to splash in the sun with family and friends, they'll need little more than a swimsuit and a smile and a day-long supply of good, common sense.
Sun and water provide nearly everything needed for a fun, relaxing day outdoors, but both present dangers and a very real potential for tragedy. Assuring a safe swim for yourself and for everyone with you calls for some common-sense rules of safety and personal responsibility. You may think you know them, but they're worth reviewing once again:
Protect your skin: Minimize sun exposure during the midday hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. to prevent the most harmful ultraviolet rays from damaging your skin. Even on a cloudy day and regardless of your natural skin tone, those rays can cause permanent damage, premature aging, even skin cancer. Use sunscreen when enjoying the sun and make sure to cover up with a shirt, hat and sunglasses whenever possible. Take special care of young children.
Avoid dehydration: Drink plenty of water, juice or soft drinks at the beach during the hot summer months. Heatstroke can strike without warning.
Don't mix alcohol with swimming or boating or anytime you're responsible for others around water: Alcohol impairs your judgment, balance, and coordination the very things you need to stay safe around water.
Be familiar with the water: Know the depth of the water, and be aware of wave action and hidden, underwater currents when swimming. Never swim alone or wander outside a designated beach area. Swim in areas where others are swimming and pay attention to the condition of the water. Be especially wary on Lake Erie, where water and wave conditions can change in an instant. On a boat? Always wear a lifejacket always.
Stay alert, stay aware!
Maintain constant supervision: Watch your children and your friends around any body of water. More drownings occur in quiet backyard ponds than on bustling Lake Erie beaches. And, in too many tragedies, the person responsible for a child thought somebody else was watching. Which leads to the next and perhaps most important rule:
Don't rely on others: Taking responsibility for yourself and others at the beach will ensure a safe day for everyone. Dont rely on a lifeguard, if present, to watch those you're with. Lifeguards are not babysitters, and it is very difficult for them to keep an eye on hundreds of swimmers in crowded waters. In fact, some studies suggest that guarded beaches can be even more dangerous, since parents and swimmers become less alert. For similar reasons, don't depend on floatation devices to protect children in water, they can give the child a false sense of security.
Above all, Swim Safe: Among all of Ohio's many beaches and swimming spots, Ohio State Parks provide by far the most opportunities, attracting literally millions of swimmers each season. At its 70 public beaches, Ohio State Parks promotes its Swim Safe program, educating and encouraging swimmers particularly parents to make safety their number one priority at the beach. More than a slogan, Swim Safe is a constant reminder that each of us has the ultimate responsibility for our own safety and for the safety of those we love.
During the long, hot summer, we can be grateful that beaches and public pools are so plentiful in Ohio. Water is never far away from long, sunny stretches of sand on Lake Erie to state and local parks, riverfronts, ponds and "secret" swimming holes. These basic, common-sense rules will go a long way toward ensuring a safe and enjoyable day for all beachgoers, no matter when or where they swim.
Enjoy Ohios beaches this summer with family and friends, but remember to swim safe!
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