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Swim Wild, Stay Safe: Here’s How to Have a Safer Splash Outdoors

Going for a casual swim outdoors can be a lot of fun!

We all love to frolic in the water. In a tropical country like India, recreational swimming is a much-loved activity. While some people have access to swimming pools, the rest take to the rivers, lakes, canals, and even the ocean.

While it isn’t impossible to drown in a closed pool, in a natural water body, it is an entirely different ball-game. In the middle of a swimming pool, if you have cramps, you can hold the stairs and climb out. However, when it comes to natural water bodies, strong currents can sweep you away, and there is little you can do about it.

Climbing out of a swimming pool is relatively easy, a river presents a different challenge all together. Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons.
Climbing out of a swimming pool is relatively easy, a river presents a different challenge all together. Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons.

Drowning in rivers, lakes and the sea is, unfortunately, a widespread occurrence and in India, in the recent past, there has been a rise in the number of mishaps.

In October 2017, the Times of India reported seven deaths in two weeks. The age of the victims ranged from 12 to 31 years. In December 2017, a student of Class 12 drowned while sea bathing in Bhubaneshwar, and on the 22nd of January, a 30-year-old man drowned while immersing a Ganesh Idol, in a lake.

India is blessed to have pristine water bodies, where one can unwind, relax and be one with nature. However, one also needs to be careful and ensure that they are safe at all times.

If you are heading to a water body, here are some basic precautions you should take:

1) Not all water bodies are suitable for swimming, so, look for information about strong surf and currents, dangerous water inhabitants (like jellyfish), and other warning signs.

Jellyfish are beautiful to look at, but can cause you great distress while swimming. Image Courtesy: Pexels.
Jellyfish are beautiful to look at, but can cause you great distress. Image Courtesy: Pexels.

Talk to locals and lifeguards and find out if the water body is okay to swim in.

2) Chart your return path beforehand, and know when you are going to get out of the water. Choosing your return path includes taking account the shore.

Be careful while swimming, the shore can have slippery, jagged rocks. Image Courtesy: Maxpixel.
The shore can have slippery, jagged rocks. Image Courtesy: Maxpixel.

If there are stones/rocks, slippery sections on the bank, navigate accordingly.

3) Always use some safety device like a life-jacket, or some floatation aid, if you plan to get more than your feet wet.

While swimming. wear a floatation aid. Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons.
Wear a floatation aid. Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons.

Entering a large open water body without appropriate safety gear is suicidal.

4) Be sure to judge the temperature of the water. In open water bodies, the temperature of the water is considerably lower than in heated swimming pools.

Be careful, if you want to swim, the water may be colder than it looks. Representative image only. Image Courtesy: Pexels.
Be careful, the water may be colder than it looks. Representative image only. Image Courtesy: Pexels.

When the water is cold, blood rushes to the core, rendering your arms and legs useless at some point.

5) Enter the water feet-first, and slowly.

Going for a swim, and just Diving in could be your last mistake. Representative image only. Image Courtesy Pexels.
Diving in could be your last mistake. Representative image only. Image Courtesy Pexels.

Jumping off a cliff into the azure ocean water looks good on screen. Don’t try it.

6) Stay sober and do not drink alcohol.

Don't drink and swim. Image Courtesy: Pexels.
Don’t drink and swim. Image Courtesy: Pexels.

Alcohol and drugs affect judgment, dull the senses and slow your reflexes—all of which are undesirable when you are in unfamiliar territory.

7) Make sure you know about currents and understand them properly.

Understand how currents work, before you swim. Image Courtesy: Maxpixel.
Understand how currents work, before you swim. Image Courtesy: Maxpixel.

8) If you are frolicking in a river, never swim/wade upstream, no matter how shallow or calm the water looks.

Leave the upstream swim to the salmon.Image Courtesy: Geograph.
Leave the upstream swim to the salmon.Image Courtesy: Geograph.

9) Stay away from algae.

Don't swim in or near algae. Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons.
Don’t swim in or near algae. Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons.

Powdery, green, scum-like algae will give you a skin rash, if you touch it, an eye infection if it enters your eyes, and sick if you, unfortunately, swallow it.

10) Do not enter a water body alone, especially if you aren’t an experienced swimmer.

Don't venture out on your own, swim in a group. Image Courtesy: MaxPixel.
Don’t venture out on your own, swim in a group. Image Courtesy: MaxPixel.

Be sure to have company, so if something untoward happens, they can still summon help.

11) If you see someone who happens to be in trouble, do not be brave and rush in, as you will probably risk both your lives.

When on a swim, If you see someone in trouble, try and summon help. Image Courtesy: Pixabay.
If you see someone in trouble, try and summon help. Image Courtesy: Pixabay.

Try and summon help, and use other methods, like a rope, or a long branch, or an emergency float, to try and get the drowning person to shore.


You may also like: In Kerala, 700 People Worked 70 Days to Revive a River Considered ‘Dead’ for over a Decade!


Open water bodies are great for having a fun time. However, it is recommended that you take the above precautions, and above all, stay vigilant, even if you plan to only wet your toes.

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