Bad Weather and Swimming

I have fond memories of endless hours of swimming and playing in the spring-fed swimming pool that my grandfather built. I also remember the disappointment I felt when we were forced from the pool by our supervising adults after they had heard a clap of thunder. This isn’t surprising behavior. Most of us probably remember a similar childhood experience. But what is surprising is the number of people who don’t understand the safety risk of staying in the pool when weather is declining.

What are the thunder and lightning risks?

When it comes to thunder, the general rule is this: if you can hear thunder you can be struck by lightning. And when lightening is involved, it’s this: if you see lightning, evacuate the pool and seek shelter immediately.

You can determine how close a storm is by doing this: count the number of seconds between the visualization of the lightning and the sound of the thunder. For every 5 seconds that passes, the strike is a mile away. (If you count 15 seconds in between, the lighting strike was only 3 miles away. Even if you can’t see the lighting but hear thunder, it is still best to leave the water because of the simple fact that multiple lightning strikes can be miles apart.

When is it safe to swim again?

The general rule for getting back in the water is this: wait 30 minutes from the last thunder you hear or 60 minutes from the last lightning you see. While this may seem excessive, it is best to err on the side of safety especially when there is any potential for electrocution.

To be aware of any potential weather hazards relative to swimming plans, keep yourself up-to-date with the weather. That way, predicted storms won’t surprise you and ruin your plans.

Are strong winds a danger too?

Strong winds can turn debris into hazards by scattering it around the pool or in the water – posing a threat to the safety of everyone nearby. Storms can also have a lasting effect on oceans by creating dangerous currents and large waves in the days before a storm strikes or after a storm has passed.

Is sunny and bright always safe?

It may come as a surprise that hazards occur on the most beautiful sunny days. Risk of sun exposure includes burns, dehydration, and heat stroke.

Sunburns can be very painful and often result in permanent damage to the skin. Reduce the risk of sunburn by using sunscreen and taking breaks in the shade.

Dehydration is very common in the summer heat. Reduce the risk of dehydration by limiting salt intake and maintaining hydration levels with water and electrolytes.

Heat stroke occurs when the body is no longer able to cool itself down. It often begins with sweating and headaches, and may progress to vomiting, chills, dizziness, and even hallucinations. Heat stroke is a medical emergency and should not be taken lightly. At the first sign of a heat related injury, get medical attention immediately.

These are easy safety practices to follow: so easy that it makes incidents caused by failing to follow them even sadder. Once learned, these practices become second nature – even for the smallest among us. Teach them early and reinforce them every time water is involved in activities.

Resources: Kid’s Health, Red Cross, Sunsational Swim School

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