The pleasures of swimming while abroad can be immense. Nevertheless there are risks and naturally care must be taken to ensure that silly and potentially dangerous mistakes are limited, if not fully avoided. The risks are related to where you swim and the safety factors of that area. Here are of top swim safety tips and advice.
Safety Tips for Swimming in Pools
Swimming pools in many regions are clean and safe especially if qualified lifeguard cover is on hand. The risk of drowning or infection is very small but certain basic care is needed.
- Are there lifeguards on duty when the pool is open?
- Check how clean the pool is kept. Are the water filters clogged?
- Is the pool well chlorinated?
- Can you see the bottom of the pool?
- If it’s an open-air pool is there any shade available?
- What are the changing facilities like?
The risk of picking up an infection in a well chlorinated pool is generally quite low. Over chlorination can cause eye and skin irritation. Some sensitive people can contract conjunctivitis this may be caused by infection or chemical agents like chlorine. In either case the use of goggles or eye bathing solutions will ease the effect. Infection is more likely to occur in and around the pool area. Children’s pools can also be a source of contamination due to faecal matter from inadequately secured nappies.
Sea Swimming – Safety Tips
Never underestimate the power of the sea especially when you’re not familiar with local currents and conditions. Coral reefs are a big attraction but often have unexpected strong currents that catch even the best swimmer. Get good local advice and stick to it.
Irish people are used to seeing jellyfish and the odd dolphin around their coast. As a traveller be aware of the other ‘monsters of the deep’ that may lurk around the shores of your chosen destination. In addition to jellyfish, sharks, sea snakes and poisonous fish may share your bit of sea. Again heed local advice.
In some areas untreated sewage is pumped into the sea be sure to scan the resort area for signs of contamination or suspicious looking pipes protruding into the sea. The shoreline line itself can be source of contamination. If dogs and other animals roam the beach it is likely that parasitic diseases may be present. Lie on a beach towel or sun bed and wear sandals or flip-flops when possible.
Scuba diving is becoming an increasingly popular sport but it does have its risks. Always check out the operator and choose the one with the best equipment and most sensible approach. Before you dive make certain you well prepared. If you suffer from heart problems, asthma or other respiratory disease always inform you instructor. Some special scuba diving holidays require you to under go a medical before being allowed to dive.
Finally always wear a life jacket when boating or canoeing being on holidays doesn’t make you float any better unless of course you’re in the Dead Sea.
Fresh Water Swim Safety
We’ve all seen Tarzan dive majestically into some idyllic lake in the middle of Africa take on the a few crocodiles and emerge on the other side unscathed. He never seems to get eaten or pick up some parasitic disease. The lakes and rivers in Africa, South America and some parts of Asia can present a significant risk to travellers.
Most travellers that take a plunge into these waterways are on safari and the temptation is often too great especially if the rest of the group is going in. Often guides will incorrectly inform you that those diseases like schistosomiasis do not occur in their area. Many Irish travellers return from a swim in lake Gambia or Malawai with schistosomiasis after being informed that the part of the lake they were in was safe. Find out more about travel vaccinations for Gambia.
Apart from crocodiles hippopotamus present a real danger and are responsible for almost as many deaths and injuries as crocodiles. Their favourite activity is over turning canoes and other small boats that get too close. While your avoiding crocodiles and hippopotamus keep an eye out for snakes as well!
Swimming in fresh water lakes and rivers in Africa and South America is generally not a good idea. Wait until you get back to the resorts pool or the beach.