mom at side of pool with young boy

Eight Ways to Stay Safe at the Water Park

As the temperature rises, many North Texans head to the various area water parks, but adding some time to go over safety can keep your fun in the sun accident-free. Before you take a dip, make sure to read over our eight ways to stay safe.


1. Think Ahead: Dress for the Day

You’ll be in the heat for most of the day, so you need to dress appropriately to keep from getting sunburned, experiencing heat stroke, or getting dehydrated. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat and a loose T-shirt can go a long way toward keeping you cool and protected from the sun. Sunglasses can also protect your eyes from harmful UVA and UVB rays. Protect your feet from scorching concrete, slippery areas or sharp objects by bringing along water shoes. Also, be sure to keep a close eye on children and older adults, monitoring how much time they spend in the sun.


2. Wear Sunscreen

To keep you and your skin healthy, Melissa Rubenstein, dermatologist and physician on the medical staff at Texas Health Dallas, recommends the following:

  • Choose a sunscreen that protects from both UVA and UVB rays, preferably one with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  • If applied correctly and reapplied every two to four hours, SPF 15 blocks 93 percent of UVB rays, SPF 30 stops about 97 percent of UVB rays and SPF 50 obstructs 98 percent of UVB rays.
  • Apply waterproof sunscreen 30 minutes before you enter the park, like right before you get in the car or even in the parking lot.
  • Reapply sunscreen every 80 minutes, especially if you’ve been in the water or have toweled off.
  • Less is not more when it comes to sunscreen. To cover your whole body with sunscreen, you would need enough to fill a shot glass.


3. Stay Cool, Stay Hydrated

When you’re having so much fun outdoors, it’s hard to remember to take a water break or sit in the shade for a bit to cool down. Unfortunately, not drinking more fluids than you’re sweating out or being in the direct sun for too long can lead to dehydration or heat stroke. Preventing both is simple: Drink plenty of water; take regular breaks, preferably in the shade; and if you can plan your outdoor activities early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the sun is not as high in the sky.


4. Know How to Swim

Every member of the family should at least know the swimming basics before going to the water park.

“Ensure that everyone in the family learns to swim well,” says Janna Fagan, registered nurse and trauma coordinator at Texas Health Plano. “Enroll in age-appropriate Red Cross water orientation and Learn-to-Swim courses, which you can start as soon as six months of age.”


5. Wear a Life Vest

According to an American Red Cross survey, 30 percent of parents think floaties are an appropriate substitute for supervision. But according to Glenn Hardesty, D.O., an emergency medicine physician on the medical staff at Texas Health Arlington Memorial, no matter how old your children are, a life vest should be worn and an adult should supervise at all times.

“Put children who can’t swim or aren’t strong swimmers in a U.S. Coast Guard–approved flotation device at all costs,” Hardesty recommends. “I’ve never worked a code on a child that had a life jacket on when they arrived in the ER department. Just be careful about flotation belts, because kids can get top-heavy and won’t be able to right themselves if they get flipped upside down. You just can’t ever underestimate how quickly kids can get away from you.”


6. Keep Young Children in Shallow Areas

Most water parks have special areas for young children to play in, with lower water depth levels and splash zones that have sprays and fountains. These areas are better suited for younger children than large wave pools or slides.


7. Keep a Watchful Eye on Your Kids

Lying back in your chair and letting your children run free can seem tempting, but you need to know where your kids are at all times, even older children. Most waterparks have lifeguards on duty, but keep in mind they are responsible for scanning large areas and might not be able to spot an accident as quickly as you could if you’re keeping an eye on your loved ones. Always watch your children, or better yet, get in the water with them.

“Always swim with a buddy!” says Fagan. “Do not allow anyone to swim alone, even at a public pool or a lifeguarded area. Use the buddy system!”


8. Know the rules

Each park has different rules, so be sure to read all posted signs before sending your children off to enjoy the fun. Just like theme parks, water parks are filled with different rides and slides, each appropriate for different ages. Each ride should have safety procedures and health precautions posted, as well as any height or weight requirements. Read them carefully and explain clearly to your children why a particular ride might not be best suited for their swimming ability or safety.

The water park can be an exciting getaway, but Hardesty also suggests not running around or near any water, which is usually a park rule. You can never truly gauge if a surface is going to be slippery, so avoid an unnecessary trip to the emergency room for stitches or a broken leg by simply walking instead of running.

Be sure to follow any park rules posted, and ask the lifeguards or staff if you have any questions.

If you still find yourself in an aquatic emergency, it’s important to know how to respond. Fagan offers these recommendations:

  • If a child is missing, check the water first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability.
  • Know how and when to call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.
  • Enroll in Red Cross water safety, first aid and CPR courses to learn what to do.
  • Have appropriate equipment, such as reaching or throwing equipment, a cell phone, life jackets and a first aid kit.

To sign up for a CPR class near you, click here.

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