There's nothing quite like the joy of splashing around in water during the long hot days of summer. But while most of us are alert to swimming pool safety, especially where children are concerned, it's easy to overlook the fact that natural water – our oceans, lakes and rivers – have their own set of dangers, some of them equally risky to adults as well as youngsters. If you're planning a beach or waterside trip this year, here are 10 hazards to watch out for.
- Fast-moving currents in rivers and oceans. You can't see them but they can quickly sweep you away. Look for warning signs and do research if you're visiting somewhere new.
- Sudden changes in tides. Muscle power often isn’t enough to get back to shore when tides go out. Or you can be trapped on a sandbank when it sweeps in. Get to know tide times.
- Hidden depths. Gradients can fall away very quickly in rivers, lakes and oceans. Carefully test the ground in front of you and don’t swim in areas you haven't tested. Don't dive into unknown waters.
- Dangerous objects below the surface. Junk, rocks, stinging and other dangerous creatures, threaten your safety. Ideally, swim in clear water and frequently glance down immediately in front of you.
- The chill factor. Rivers start their journey from icy springs and even ocean water can be much colder than you expect. This can cause sudden cramps and even hypothermia. If the water's cold, get out. Note that babies under 1 year can't regulate body heat properly.
- Man (or woman!) overboard. In boats, on waterbeds and water-skis, you always run the risk of capsizing or falling and ending up overboard. Avoid risky behavior and showing off. And always wear a coastguard-approved flotation device.
- Losing sight. It's easy to keep your eye on kids in your home swimming pool. Not so in the wide open spaces of rivers, lakes and ocean. Give firm warnings to your children and don't let the vulnerable ones out of your sight.
- Wave power. Waves vary dramatically in height, from one to the next, especially in windy weather. Always stand well clear.
- Eye on the sky. Waterside breezes fool you into thinking it's cooler than it really is. Protect yourself against sunburn.
Ignorance. Train youngsters to swim. Tech them water safety. Learn rescue techniques. Locate lifebelts. Learn first aid.