Summer Swimming Safety

Summer and swimming are synonymous for many. Learn how to maximize the health benefits of swimming while reducing the risks.

Every day, about 10 people die from unintentional drowning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger. For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries.

Much has been reported recently about “secondary drowning” or “dry drowning.” “These are not medical terms, but they do point to rare complications that may occur after getting water in your airways,” said Betsy Barker, Advanced Practice Provider with BetterMed. Any problems that do develop are usually treatable if you get medical care right away; the key is to keep a close eye on your child for the first 24 hours.

“If symptoms such as breathing problems or lethargy do get worse, seek immediate medical attention. A health care provider can determine if airways are blocked, water is in the lungs, or oxygen levels are low,” emphasized Barker.

Check yourself and your family!

Are you heading to the pool or water park? Check with the staff to see that the pool and hot tub are well maintained, such as frequent testing of the pH levels and making sure they are filtering properly. Germs can contaminate the water through leaky swim diapers or swimmers who are ill. Here are five preventive tips for water safety:

  • Shower before you get in the water.
  • Check your child’s swim diaper frequently (every 30 to 60 minutes).
  • Don’t swim while sick with diarrhea.
  • Don’t swallow the water.
  • Don’t swim when you have open wounds.

After swimming, dry your ears thoroughly to avoid ear infections. “Swimmer’s ear” or otitis externa, is not the same as the common childhood middle ear infection.

  • Symptoms of swimmer’s ear usually appear within a few days and include:
  • Itchiness inside the ear.
  • Redness and swelling of the ear.
  • Pain when the infected ear is tugged or when pressure is placed on the ear.
  • Pus draining from the infected ear.

See your healthcare provider if you think you have swimmer’s ear, which can be treated with antibiotic or over-the-counter ear drops.

For more information, visit

For all your summer swimming concerns, the health providers at BetterMed are available 7 days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. With six convenient locations, our facilities have a 98% patient satisfaction rate—the highest among urgent care centers in the Richmond area. BetterMed’s caring health providers can have you evaluated in less than one hour, and on your way to enjoying the rest of your summer.