Make water safety a priority this summer

Educate yourself on water safety this summer, says EIMEAR HUTCHINSON, who shares some advice and tips as we prepare to head to the beach in the months ahead
Make water safety a priority this summer

Eimear is urging everyone to look at watersafety.ie which is a wealth of information. Picture: Stock

I THINK possibly one of my biggest worries this summer is the water. In truth, I worry about a lot of things, but that’s probably a discussion for another day!

My two oldest girls went back to swimming lessons in the last couple of weeks and we as a family were able to get back into the pool, all six of us, by appointment, recently too. And that is fantastic, considering we had not been in a pool in almost 16 months.

My main concern is that my girls are confident in the water but they lack the actual skill to back it up. 

It is a shame, but given how many months of lessons they have missed out on and the practise outside of that which we would normally do, it is only natural they have probably gone backwards rather than forwards with their swimming.

As a nation, we flock to the seaside, lakes or rivers when the sun shines, and we are so lucky we are able to, that the waters we use are safe and clean. And I know we all know the dangers of water, but it is no harm to hear it again as a reminder at the start of each summer, even for myself, this sort of article is useful to write.

We all spend plenty of time scrolling through social media these days, but over the next couple of weeks I would urge everyone to have a look at watersafety.ie because it is a wealth of information.

They have great advice on all aspects of water safety, from being safe in the bath to the more extremes like what to do if you get caught in a sinking car (did you know that you can pull out the headrest and use the bottom prongs to smash open a car window?). Other topics covered on the website include jellyfish — how they sting and what to do if you get stung, general beach safety, Weil’s disease, river safety, water safety on farms, and a whole host of other tips, advice and resources. It all makes for a very worthy read.

We all know that we need to always watch children when they are in the water. We have four small children, most of whom do not really know how to swim, so I personally would never go into the water with all four unless my husband was there to help supervise.

Be mindful of giving children floating devices at the beach like inflatable rings, lilos or small inflatable boats, and certainly don’t leave any child or teenager unsupervised on one. 

There were several reports last year during the summer of people having to be rescued out at sea because a rip tide pulled them out. Rips are hard to understand if you aren’t a seasoned beach-goer so always assume there could be one there and act accordingly.

It is also important to be aware of the body of water you are going into and what the bed of the ocean, river or whatever it may be, is like. Some beaches can have seabeds that drop off quite sharply, even very close to shore, and this can be dangerous, especially for smaller kids where the difference between them being above and below water is very small.

Places like quarries and reservoirs can be very deep in the middle so just be very wary and be mindful of not swimming alone in a large, deep body of water. Have a look and ensure there are lifebuoys to hand and that whoever is with you on shore knows where it is before you enter the water.

Find a meeting spot for you and your child at the beach, should you get separated/ or if the child wanders off. Picture: Stock
Find a meeting spot for you and your child at the beach, should you get separated/ or if the child wanders off. Picture: Stock

Many of our beaches will be busy this year, so a useful thing to do when you first arrive at one and find your spot is to pick out any large or obvious markers nearby so that if your child should happen to wander off or get disorientated and lose their way, it is easy for them to find their way back. 

A lot of children are naturally curious and friendly on a beach so it is wise that they don’t enter the water unsupervised with new friends they might meet.

Paddling pools are a quite common sight in Irish gardens as soon as the sun shines. It is obviously so important that children are always supervised in a paddling pool. Empty them or put a secure cover over the pool after use if you are walking away from it.

It might be a good idea to position the paddling pool in a spot where you can easily see it from inside the house too because children are inquisitive, and it only takes a few minutes for a small child to wander back out, and we all know how much children love playing in water.

And, with all those reminders in your head, here is to the start of the summer, all the schools are out at this stage so here’s hoping it’s a good one!

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