With the recent spell of good weather Ireland’s beaches, lakes and bathing spots are packed with families enjoying the sun.

If you are planning to go swimming, in Ireland or while away on holiday, take 10 steps to stay safe:

1. Always use areas with lifeguards present – listed here on the Irish Water Safety website – and do as the lifeguard instructs. 2. Swim parallel and close to shore 3. Pay attention to signs on the beach 4. Don’t Swim alone 5. Don’t swim just after eating 6. Don’t swim when you are hot or tired 7. Don’t swim in strange places 8. Don’t swim out after anything drifting 9. Don’t stay in the water too long 10. Don’t swim out to sea

Where ever you are planning to swim, be aware of potential hazards.

Swimming in the Sea

Watch out for…

Waves as they hit the beach can produce lateral currents which travel parallel to the beach; this can drag a swimmer from a safe area to one which is hazardous.

What to do: Pick a feature on the land as a reference point use it to judge if you are drifting parallel to the beach

Rip Currents form when two lateral currents meet head on and form a current that now travels out to sea. They can drag unsuspecting swimmers out to sea very quickly.

What to do: If you get caught in a rip current, swim parallel to the shore to break out of the rip before swimming to ashore.

The Tide changes twice daily, at this time unusual currents may be generated which can sweep a swimmer out of their depth or out to sea. Be aware that other unpredictable currents can be generated around piers, rock outcrops & peninsulas and where fresh water rivers enter the sea

What to do: beware of the time of tide changes each day, it varies so consult the lifeguards, local press or a tide table which can be purchased or found online.

Inland Waterways

Watch out for…

The temperature in rivers and lakes can be significantly colder than you may expect. Sudden immersion in cold water can cause shock, immobilizing the swimmer, and can induce cardiac or respiratory arrest, both are potentially fatal conditions.

Depth in lakes can change dramatically and unexpectedly, dangerous when swimming or wading.

Fast currents in rivers can pose a particular hazard too along with deep unseen holes in the riverbed, hidden debris and unstable river banks.

What to do: If you are tempted to swim in an unguarded area ask locally if it is safe to do.

Finally, as the weekend approaches please also be aware that alcohol, sun & swimming do not mix!

In case of emergency dial 112/999

by Kieran Meehan

Irish Red Cross Irish Water Safety Instructor