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Public Health Essentials

A place to highlight the work of the Snohomish Health District as well as share health-related information and tips. Have an idea or question? Drop us a line at SHDInfo@snohd.org.

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Jun 13

L is for Learn to Swim

Posted on June 13, 2022 at 10:57 AM by Kari Bray

This is Part 12 in a multi-week series of blogs focused on the ABC’s for Healthy Kids. Learn more at www.snohd.org/healthykids.  

Top Three Take-Aways:  

  1. Swimming lessons for children are crucial for safety. They’re also great exercise. 
  2. Water safety is more than swimming – be vigilant whenever children are around water, and make sure they wear life jackets. 
  3. Remember that cold water is dangerous, depth can be deceiving, and you should always make sure children wash well after swimming.  

Swimming = water safety

Swimming lessons are not just for people who want to swim recreationally or competitively. Learning the basics of how to control your body in water is an important part of safety. 

This is particularly true in beautiful Snohomish County, with its access to lakes, rivers, bays and Puget Sound. Even if you don’t intend to swim, you may find yourself in the water, and swimming can be a life-saving skill. 

Kids in poolConsider signing children up for swim lessons. These should cover basics such as treading water and floating. They can advance to different swimming skills and strokes, as well. Some schools or community organizations also may offer competitive swim teams for older children and teens.  

Along with building confidence and skill in the water, swim lessons and competitive swimming are excellent exercise. Swimming is a low-impact sport that can serve your children well as a workout for the rest of their lives. 

There are a number of options around Snohomish County for swim lessons, so take some time to search online or make a few phone calls to find the one that’s right for you. Options to consider include YMCA locations, an aquatic center or public pool, or private swim lessons and swim schools. Some organizations, like the YMCA, may offer financial assistance so children can take lessons regardless of ability to pay. 

Along with learning breaststroke or backstroke, swim lessons help teach children core skills like how to stay calm in the water, get in and out of water safely, and manage their breathing while swimming. 

While children may learn to swim in a pool, be sure to talk to them about other bodies of water. Explain that pools and open water (lakes, rivers, ocean, etc.) are very different – even strong swimmers can be pulled below the surface by undertow, currents or unexpected obstacles.  

Swimming lessons aren’t the only classes worth taking when it comes to water safety. Older children, teens and adults should learn CPR and basic water rescue. It’s worth the time and effort to be ready to help someone in distress. You can check with local Fire and EMS agencies, the Red Cross, or other CPR training providers to learn skills that will last a lifetime. 

When around water

Drowning is the No. 1 injury-related cause of death for children between ages 1 and 4. 

Water safety isn’t just about learning how to swim. No matter how safe a body of water appears to be or how strong a swimmer your child is, you should always take precautions. This is true near any body of water, whether it’s a river, lake, bay or swimming pool. 

Dad teaching son to swimFirst and most important is to keep an eye on children whenever they are around water. Even if they don’t plan to go swimming, if they are near water, they need adult supervision. 

Don’t get distracted if you are monitoring children near water. It’s not a good time to check your phone or read a book. Most child drownings happen when at least one adult is present. Being there isn’t enough. You need to pay attention. 

Stay within arm’s reach of young children so that you can grab them and help them at any time. They should be wearing life jackets if they are playing in or near the water. Remember: Water wings and floaty toys are NOT substitutes for a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device

For teens or young adults who no longer need an adult within arm’s reach, it still is crucial to use the buddy system. Never swim alone, regardless of your age and confidence in the water. Even experienced swimmers should have someone with them. 

Never swim in fast-moving water. Remember that rivers, especially, can be unpredictable – there may be hidden currents or debris that you cannot see within the water. 

A few more must-knows

  • Cold water is dangerous. A refreshing dip or a day out on the water might sound like just the thing in hot weather. However, even when the weather is warm, many bodies of water around Snohomish County stay very cold. If you are dunked into cold water, such as if you capsize while boating or floating, you can go into cold-water shock that makes it difficult or impossible to swim or stay afloat on your own. People of all ages should wear well-fitting life jackets while boating. Be cautious of where you choose to swim – you should be able to easily exit your chosen swimming hole at any time. 
  • Know the depth of water. Lakes, rivers or other open water can be deceptive. Make sure you know how deep water is. Are children able to touch their feet to the bottom? Are there any sudden changes in depth to be aware of? Are you able to wade out into the water if you need to pull a child back to shore? It’s also important to never let kids or teens dive head-first into uncertain water. A hard collision with the bottom of a too-shallow swimming area can lead to serious injury or death. 
  • Check beach advisories before you go, and always wash up after swimming. It is possible to get sick from bacteria, parasites or other germs in the water. You may have heard of swimmer’s itch, for example. Often, water recreation-related issues involve skin irritation or illness of the stomach and intestines. Before you go, check swimming beach advisories to see if there is a warning for that beach. After children are done swimming, always be sure they rinse off as soon as possible (pools, beaches or parks may have rinse stations available on-site) and then scrub more thoroughly in a warm shower when they get home. 

For more information, check out the following resources: 

Take some time now to check off the “L” in the ABC’s for healthy kids. Have your children learned how to swim yet? 

Knowing how to swim, particularly in a place like Snohomish County where rivers, lakes and bays are all accessible, is a vital piece of personal safety that will serve children well for the rest of their lives.

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