From rafting mountain rivers to sailing on open seas, water activities offer exciting and healthy fun. Especially in summertime, there's nothing much better than a challenging outdoor activity where you also get wet. Still, caution should prevail.

General Water Safety

The main danger of playing in or near the water is submersion followed by drowning. Luckily, most water-related accidents can be avoided by following a few basic safety rules.

For example, always swim with a partner, no matter if you're at the beach or in your neighbor's pool. Having someone close by to administer aid or go for help can prevent or mitigate the consequences of practically all drowning episodes. The buddy system is truly effective.

Only swim where it's safe to do so. Obviously, a pool is made for swimming, but there's a reason that some parts of the beach are encouraged for swimming and some are prohibited. No one can know for sure whether the weather might turn, or if there is a hidden danger beneath the water. Therefore, only swim in the presence of an alert lifeguard who can help in the event of any problem.

Unless you're at a pool with a known depth that is safe for diving, always jump into the water feet first. This is especially true if you're jumping into the ocean from high up. If there's a "No Diving" sign, pay attention to it. It's there for a reason.

Water and alcohol don't mix. If you start drinking, don't enter the water. Statistics show that alcohol is involved in up to half of the deaths associated with water recreation—swimming, boating, surfing, etc.

Public Pools

Most public pools are usually safe, but it doesn't hurt to be vigilant. Make sure you can see through the water to the bottom drain. If you can't, chances are that the water's not clean enough to swim in. If you're not sure, check the water quality yourself. Testing strips can be bought at pharmacies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that pool water have a free chlorine level of one to three parts per million and a pH between 7.2 and 7.8.

Also, no matter how clean it looks, don't swallow pool water. Recreational water illnesses are very common, and even though chlorine kills most germs, to be on the safe side, keep the water out of your mouth.

Boating Safety

The number one rule in boating safety is to wear your personal flotation device. You may think you're a strong enough swimmer that you don't need a life jacket, but if you get knocked out or hurt your arm in an accident, the life jacket may be all that can keep you afloat. 

Before heading out on the water, make sure you tell somebody back on land that you're going out, and let them know how long you'll be. That way, if something goes wrong, people will know to look for you.

Dangerous Aquatic Life

Natural bodies of water harbor some of Earth's most dangerous life forms. Examples include biting fish or fish with sharp or stinging appendages:

  • Shark
  • Barracuda
  • Surgeonfish
  • Moray Eel
  • Sponge
  • Jellyfish
  • Sea Urchin
  • Starfish
  • Sea cucumber
  • Bristle worm
  • Cone snail
  • Starfish
  • Catfish
  • Stingray
  • Scorpionfish
  • Octopus
  • Sea snake

Learn more

Sea Bather's Eruption

Water Safety Basics

Treating Swimmer's Ear  

Safe Paddling

Recognizing Contaminated Beach Water

Are Sting Rays Dangerous?

Identifying Poisonous Sea Urchin 

Which Fish Will Sting?

Poisonous Jellyfish