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BEACON Senior News

Swimming Safety: 6 tips for avoiding injuries and infections

May 29, 2024 03:26PM ● By Brad Greer

Many seniors look forward to getting together with friends and family on the water this summer. While some may feel confident entering coastal waters, lakes or swimming pools, it’s essential to take extra precautions to prevent injuries and bacterial infections that could result in hospitalization or worse.

Here are some tips for staying safe while enjoying water activities this summer:

1) Wear proper footwear

No matter where you plan to swim—a community pool, lake or ocean—wearing the proper footwear is essential for safely entering and exiting the water. Water shoes with rubberized, grippy soles will help you avoid slips and increase your confidence on your feet.

2) Know the signs of dehydration

Even in cool water, swimming is an exercise that can lead to dehydration. Watch for dizziness, fatigue, headaches and dry mouth as indicators to get out of the water and rehydrate. Seniors become dehydrated much quicker because the body has less water composition. 

3) Cover wounds and scrapes

Inspect your body, or have someone else check for cuts, blisters or abrasions. Cover even small wounds with waterproof bandages to protect against dangerous bacterial infections. Brands like DrySee feature color-changing gauze that alerts you if the bandage seal is compromised, allowing you to reapply and stay protected.

4) Consult your doctor beforehand

Certain medications can make it challenging for seniors to spend long periods in the sun. Additionally, those with weakened immune systems should steer clear of untreated water. If you’re uncertain about how your medications might affect you, consult your healthcare provider.

5) Don’t swim alone.

Regardless of whether your swimming companion is your age, a grandchild or an adult child, avoid swimming alone. In an emergency, having a buddy ensures you’ll get help quickly. This is particularly important for seniors with dementia. Even if you prefer some alone time, swimming with a buddy not only keeps you safe but is an opportunity to create wonderful new memories together. 

6) Seek shade and wear sunscreen

Extended sun exposure can increase your risk of sunburn and skin damage. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher at least 30 minutes before going outside and reapply every two hours or after swimming. Consider wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and a lightweight long-sleeved shirt for added coverage. Remember that UV rays can penetrate even on cloudy days, so it’s important to stay protected.

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