1 minute readHealth & Safety
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Top Tips for Staying Safe on Spring Break: Water Safety Edition

Post adapted from March 19, 2014 blog by By Peter Wernicki, MD American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council.

How will you remember this year’s spring break? If you want to stick with sun tans, ice cream and ocean breezes and avoid scary or dangerous situations, follow the lead of American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council member Peter Wernicki, MD.


“As an orthopedic surgeon, I see plenty of people who injure themselves in and around water on their vacations,” said Wernicki. “There are the typical slips and falls around pools and the joint and muscle tears from water injuries. I know that when good times aren’t safe times, it can take all the fun out of a poolside getaway.”

Here are a few tips to make sure spring break doesn’t include a trip to the emergency room:

  1. Don’t drink and dive. I know day drinking at the pool or beach drink is tempting. But nearly 70% of water-related deaths among teens and adults involve alcohol, especially diving injuries. Save the toasts until after the pool, beach or water park. Remember: alcohol affects your judgment and coordination. High temperatures and a hot sun up the ante. Make sure you drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and remember the sunscreen too – skin cancer is a real killer.

  2. Buddy up. Even at supervised pools and parks, go with a friend and keep an eye on each other. If you have kids make sure they are using the buddy system in the water – and if they are not good swimmers, make sure you have “arms’ reach” supervision.  If possible, always swim where a lifeguard is present.


  3. Enroll before you go. Take a Red Cross First Aid/CPR/AED class now and be ready for fun as well as the unexpected. Make sure kids and adults know how to swim.

  4. Pack tools not toys. Most people mistakenly believe that items like foam pool noodles, water wings and inflatable rings make children safer in the water. But the reality is that air and foam-filled flotation toys are no substitute for life jackets or other water safety devices; don’t expect them to be a lifesaving device. Make sure that Coast Guard-approved life vests are available and worn, especially on boats and jet skis.

  5. Steer clear of breath-holding games. This goes for hyper-ventilation (fast shallow breathing) games while swimming too. It doesn’t take much to go black and go under.

  6. If the thunder roars, get indoors. If you’re at an outdoor pool, keep an eye on the weather and head to dry shelter before lightning strikes.