There’s nothing quite like the feeling of diving into a refreshing pool or the cool sea on a hot summer day. But, as much as we love this joyful activity, there are times when swimming might not be the best idea. Just like most outdoor activities, swimming also has its set of ‘dos and don’ts’ to ensure it remains fun and, most importantly, safe.
You should not go swimming when there is heavy rain, turbulent winds and thunderstorms, when you’re sick or injured, when the water is cold or the sun is at its highest, or when you’re alone. This is not an exhaustive list. Knowing when to refrain from swimming is just as important as knowing when to dive in.
In this article, we will discuss each of these factors in more detail so you can make a better judgment call on when it’s actually safe to swim.
When There’s a Storm
Swimming during a storm is an invitation to disaster. The turbulent waters and fierce winds can easily get the better of even experienced swimmers. In fact, lightning often accompanies thunderstorms, posing a serious risk to swimmers as water conducts electricity.
So, the next time the storm clouds gather, think twice about taking a plunge and opt for a cozy indoor activity instead. After all, your safety should always come first!
After or During Heavy Rain
Heavy rainfall can rapidly change the conditions of natural bodies of water, such as lakes, rivers, and oceans. This often results in increased water flow or currents, and potentially hazardous debris getting swept into the water. Also, rain can drastically reduce visibility both in and out of the water, making it hard for you to spot potential dangers. Wait for the water to settle and clear up before going for a swim.
When It is Dark
While night swimming might sound like an adventure, it poses its own set of challenges and dangers. Poor visibility can prevent you from seeing hazards in the water and make it difficult for others to see you if you need help. Moreover, it’s harder to judge the depth and current of the water in the dark, increasing the risk of accidents. Stick to well-lit pools and supervised areas if you must swim when it’s dark.
When the Water Temperature is 70 F or Below
Swimming in cold water can be a shock to the system, potentially leading to hypothermia. When water temperatures dip below 70 F, your body starts to lose heat faster than it can produce it, putting you at risk. A comfortable water temperature is 75-80 F or higher.
Ensure you’re wearing proper gear, such as a wetsuit of an appropriate thickness, if you’re planning to take a plunge in colder water. Also, don’t be fooled by the outdoor temperature – even if it’s nice and toasty outside, the water is likely significantly colder, so bring insulating gear with you.
After You Ate a Large Meal
While the old adage of waiting an hour after eating before you swim may be a bit of an exaggeration, it does have some truth to it. After a large meal, your body diverts blood to the digestive system to help break down the food.
If you go for a vigorous swim right away, you might experience cramps or discomfort because your body is also trying to send blood to your muscles. Allow your body ample time to digest before you dive in.
When You Are Recovering From an Injury or Surgery
Swimming is often recommended as a great way to rehabilitate from injuries due to its low-impact nature. However, if you’re still in the recovery phase, especially after a surgical procedure, stay out of the water.
Swimming could potentially worsen your condition or cause any open wounds to get infected. Wait until you are mostly recovered or your wound is completely closed before even thinking about going swimming.
When You Are Sick
If you’re feeling unwell or have an infectious disease, you might want to skip the swim. Not only will swimming potentially worsen your condition, but it’s also considerate to avoid spreading germs to other swimmers. Moreover, certain symptoms like dizziness or fatigue could put you at risk in the water. Rest up, take care of your health, and you’ll be back in the water in no time!
When the Sun is at its Hottest
Sunburn and dehydration is a real risk for swimmers, especially during peak sunlight hours (usually between 10 AM and 4 PM). Even with water-resistant sunscreen, the sun’s harmful rays can cause skin damage. Additionally, prolonged exposure to extreme heat can lead to dehydration and heatstroke. Consider swimming in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the harshest sun.
When the Water Chemistry Isn’t Balanced
Swimming in a pool where the chemical balance is off can lead to a variety of unpleasant experiences and health issues. Too much chlorine can cause skin irritation, itchy eyes, and even respiratory problems. On the other hand, insufficient chemicals can lead to bacterial growth, making the water unsafe for swimming.
Make sure to test the water for appropriate pH, alkalinity, and sanitizer levels before you dive in. If you’re at a public pool, don’t hesitate to ask the management about their pool maintenance routine.
When There is a Shark Warning
It might seem like a scene straight out of a movie, but shark warnings are a real thing in some parts of the world. If you see signs posted or receive alerts about shark sightings or attacks, it’s best to stay out of the water. While shark attacks are rare, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and stay out of the water if you’ve been warned of their presence.
When You’re Alone
There’s a simple rule when it comes to swimming: never swim alone. Having a buddy with you can make a world of difference in an emergency. They can call for help, perform first aid, or even save you from a dangerous situation. Besides, swimming with a friend is way more fun, isn’t it? Always prioritize your safety and ensure someone is around when you swim.
When the Beach is Closed
If a beach is closed, it’s closed for a good reason. Authorities may shut beaches due to various reasons like harmful algal blooms (red tide), high bacteria levels, dangerous currents, or even environmental restoration efforts.
Ignoring these closures and going for a swim can be detrimental to both your health and the environment. Always adhere to the signs and respect the rules. There will always be another day and another beach to enjoy your swim!
Err on the Side of Caution
If you ever find yourself in a situation that we have not listed in this article and you aren’t sure if it’s safe or not, then it probably isn’t. If you feel a sense of unease, trust your gut. There may be something that you can’t explain why it’s bad, but you should just not swim to be on the safe side.
For example, if you notice the water is a slightly strange color or has a lot of debris floating in it, that may be a sign that it is contaminated and you should avoid swimming in it. Another situation is if you notice a lot of boat traffic – even if you are allowed to swim, perhaps you should swim elsewhere or wait until there are less boats before you swim.
Use your common sense and be cautious, and you should be able to discern when you should NOT go swimming more often than not.