poolside safety tips

The Coolest Water Safety Tips for the Most Refreshing St. Louis Summer

Summer officially began on June 20. Every country and culture celebrates the Summer Solstice differently, but St. Louisans celebrate summer days swimming, boating, rafting, sliding down immense water slides, skiing, or lounging in the water.


While taking a dip in the water is a popular, refreshing, and fun way to beat the heat, it also comes with risks. According to 2020 Missouri State Highway Patrol statistics, 37 people died from drowning (in state waters), and 11 drowning incidents occurred on private property. Use the summer’s best water safety tips to be smart while staying cool as the days heat up.


Table of Contents:


Water Safety Tips for Kids 

Some children are incredibly strong swimmers. However, no matter how many professional swim lessons they master, the advice is always the same: NEVER LEAVE A CHILD UNATTENDED NEAR WATER

Children are at the most risk for drowning. Young children can easily slip and fall into a pool, or they may misjudge the depth of a lake or river. Currents are also unpredictable in rivers, and a strong current can pull even strong swimmers under the water. 


Even adults should swim in groups. There is safety and numbers, and a simple accident in the water can be fatal. 


Follow these safety tips for kids to help them stay safe without sacrificing the fun:


  1. Children should always wear a life jacket in rivers and lakes. The depth changes are unpredictable, and river currents are extremely dangerous.
  2. Young children and weaker swimmers also should wear a life jacket in pools and water parks (most water parks provide free life jackets)
  3. Don’t let children swim after eating. Wait one hour. Eating and swimming never mix; the digestion process may cause cramping, which could impair swimming ability.
  4. Children should never run around a pool area; concrete and pavement are slippery, leading to falls.
  5. Dress children in brightly-hued swimming garments. Skip blues, greens, and muted earth tones (like black, white, and brown), which can blend into the water or look like debris or shadows. Instead, pick swimwear with bright pink, or orange. Think bold and neon!

Using an Inflated Ring for Water Safety

Inflated rings or swimming rings are one of the most common pool toys for children. These rings often feature favorite characters or bright and colorful drawings, making them very popular with many children. These rings also are very affordable, which appeals to parents.

inflatable ring floaty

Although swimming rings are cute, popular, and affordable, they are unsafe. Here are five key facts about swimming rings that make them dubiously dangerous: 

  1. Swimming rings are not a coast-guard-approved water safety device. They are not designed to mitigate drowning in pools or any other body of water.
  2. Inflatable swimming rings are prone to leaks and punctures, leading to a child potentially losing flotation support in a body of water.
  3. Rings are one-size-fits-all and do not fit all children.
  4. Some children can slip through the center of the ring, sinking into the water.
  5. The plastic composition becomes slippery, making some rings difficult to grasp in an emergency.


Swimming rings and swimming wings are designed as pool toys. Parents should never use a swimming ring or inflatable arm wings as a flotation device. Young children and children who are weak swimmers should wear a coastguard-approved life jacket. Parents should not rely on inflatable rings, wings, or rafts for flotation support or safety. Always look for a Coast Guard-approved flotation device. 

Water Safety for Preschoolers

Most preschoolers are in the early stages of learning to swim. Parents must be cautious when preschoolers are playing in or near water. Private pools must have a gate and fence to ensure that young children do not wander into the area and fall into the pool. 

Parents should keep preschoolers in shallow areas; if young preschoolers want to play in deeper water, use a properly fitting life jacket. Parents can find life jackets in fun colors and patterns; some brands even offer cartoon characters. Make a game out of putting on the life vest. Children also may enjoy how they float above the water when they are wearing their vest. Remember to use bright colors for swimwear. 

The Top Swimming Safety Tips for Rivers and Lakes

Lake of the Ozarks and Table Rock Lake are popular boating destinations for St. Louisans. Float trips down the Meramec River, Black River, and Huzzah River also make for an adventurous day trip or weekend excursion. 

Rivers and lakes pose unique challenges and hazards to swimmers. While all bodies of water (including swimming pools) can be dangerous, rivers and lakes vary in depth. River currents also create swift and dangerous conditions. Hidden debris also can entrap swimmers who jump into the water without knowing what lies beneath. Always use extra caution when boating, swimming, and floating on lakes and rivers. 

River Safety Tips

Use common sense and caution when floating, boating, and swimming in any river. Use these tips to stay safe on Missouri’s beautiful rivers:

  1. Always wear a life jacket when boating or on the river. Yes, you may be a strong swimmer, but even strong swimmers get caught in swift currents. Wear your life jacket!
  2. Never dive head-first into the river. You don’t know what is below the surface; you could dive into a boulder or a tree limb and lose consciousness. 
  3. Don’t fight against a current when caught in the river; swim diagonally towards the shore. You may be swept a bit downriver, but swimming diagonally moves you slowly out of the water. 
  4. Beware of snakes and turtles. Copperheads and water moccasins are poisonous. Snapping turtles don’t attack unprovoked, but be cautious where you step. 
  5. Pay attention to river warning signs posted by parks departments. Green signs indicate that the water is calm, yellow means slight danger (be cautious), and a red sign means that conditions are dangerous (do NOT swim).
  6. Be mindful of “strains” when rafting. Strains are debris or items that let water pass, while trapping people and rafts. Strainers beneath the water can cause swimmers to get entangled and drown when they jump in. Rocks, logs, and branches all can strain the water, while trapping people. Swift currents pull people or boats toward the strains. Always keep an eye out for these dangerous hazards.

Heat Warning: Heat Exhaustion vs. Heat Strokes

A day on the water is a fun way to seek respite from extreme heat. However, individuals must know that being safe on the water also requires understanding the dangers and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

When the body gets overheated, we naturally sweat. Extreme heat can zap the body and lead to a dangerous situation. Heat exhaustion leads to numerous symptoms, including heavy perspiration, cold skin, dizziness or faintness, and nausea. When individuals notice symptoms, they need to get in a cooler environment, drink water (or hydrating liquids), and rest. Heat exhaustion should improve after about an hour or so. 


However, if an individual does not seek help when suffering heat exhaustion, the condition may lead to a heat stroke. This is a serious condition that causes confusion, a high body temperature, fast breathing and a high heart rate, and the individual also may vomit. Call 911 immediately and take the person to a cooler area. Use a cool cloth to lower the body temperature and wait for first responders to arrive.

Waterpark summer saftety mehlville FD

Water Park Safety Statistics

Many families and individuals love water parks, as these recreational areas offer many fun water rides and pools. Water slides, wave pools, lazy rivers, and tube rides create an exciting experience. Parents may enjoy water parks, as most of these parks provide an area that is specifically designed for children with shallow water, small slides, and sprinklers. 

What are the dangers of water parks? The dangers of water parks are minimal as they relate to accidents and drowning. While drowning can happen anywhere, water parks often must be staffed with trained lifeguards.


There are a few hidden dangers of water parks. Here are five potential safety concerns at water parks:

  1. Extreme rides can lead to more serious injuries. Massive waterslides and thrilling water rides create the potential for broken bones, neck injuries, and even chipped teeth. The worst water park incident occurred at the now defunct Schlitterbahn water park in Kansas on the ride Verruckt. A young child lost his life when his raft went airborne, fatally injuring him and leaving other riders with serious injuries.
  2. Waterborne illnesses and diseases can ruin a vacation. E-coli, oh my! Like public pools, water park pools and areas must be properly treated to decrease the proliferation of nasty bacteria. Unfortunately, if cleaning protocols are not followed, children and adults can suffer from nasty intestinal infections or other illnesses.
  3. Overcrowding can be stressful and dangerous. All water parks have capacity limitations. On days when parks reach capacity, wave pools can be so crowded that it makes it difficult for lifeguard staff to properly assess potentially dangerous situations. 
  4. Age and height requirements for rides must be followed. Safety rules exist for a reason. Parents should never tell a child to stand on their toes to meet a height requirement at a water park or theme park. Read all the rules and follow them!
  5. Wave pools can overwhelm small children. Use life jackets and be mindful of other swimmers. 

Slather on the Sunscreen and Be Safe

No matter where you swim, boat, or chill during the summer days, don’t forget to slather on lots of sunscreen to protect your skin against burns. Sunburns can lead to peeling and blistering; be mindful of applying and reapplying throughout the day. 

Stay safe in the water and outdoors this summer. Follow Mehlville’s monthly safety tips and feel empowered year-round.