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It is important for all people to grasp the safety aspects involved in swimming, be it pool or open water, before they undertake it as a pastime. Although to many people, swimming seems to be a harmless pursuit, it can become life endangering if the rules are not followed.

The most basic rules of swimming safety can be applied to the pool environment, and involve the use of a little common sense. Firstly, never run near to the pool edge. One slip could result in a badly twisted ankle, or even a crack on the head, which might lead to unconsciousness and even drowning. Also, be aware of other people using the pool. This means checking the water below before diving in, and appreciating the whereabouts of others when swimming. Thirdly, you should never indulge in horseplay, especially with those with less ability as swimmers. So don’t ‘dunk’ a person’s head under the water and don’t dive-bomb people. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, never swim while under the influence of drink or drugs. It might seem like a good idea at the time, but your judgement and swimming ability can be greatly impaired.

When swimming in the sea, it is vitally important that you understand the role of currents. A lateral current runs parallel to the shore, and the danger when swimming in one of these is that you may get dragged into a rip current. Rip currents are strong flows of water returning to the sea. If you get caught in a rip current you shouldn’t panic but swim back to shore at a forty-five degree angle. If you are unable to do this, then swim parallel to the shore for a while, and then try the forty-five degree angle. If this fails, wave and call for help.

Backwash and shore break can be dangerous for youngsters near the waters edge. Backwash is the return of the water from the shore to the sea, and can be strong enough to drag a small person back into the sea. Shore break is even more dangerous, and is where a large wave breaks on the shore. If you are stood underneath such a wave you might sustain a nasty back injury. In the event that you cannot escape from an impending shore break the best thing to do would be to dive into the base of the wave.

Never swim alone in the sea, and don’t swim for long in cold water. Always check conditions with a lifeguard if in doubt. Also allow plenty of time for food to digest before you go swimming. It is also a good idea to check the direction of the tide. Follow these safety guidelines to ensure that wherever you decide to swim, you will always do so unharmed.