Swimming safety tips as pools and parks open across DC region

Many pools and splash parks are opening across D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with the unofficial start of summer this Memorial Day weekend.

With so many bodies around bodies of water, experts warn that swimming safety should be top of mind for parents and caregivers.

Swim lessons can be a rite of passage - but new data from the Centers for Disease Control reveals more than 54 percent of adults have never taken one. The report encourages making lessons accessible to more people, saying lessons can save lives.

Over 4,500 people died due to drowning each year from 2020 to 2022, 500 more per year compared to 2019.

The CDC report also found that drownings are on the rise for the first time in decades - and children ages 1 to 4 saw the largest increase.


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In fact, it's the number one cause of accidental death for that age group.

"By race and ethnicity, the highest drowning rates were among non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native and non-Hispanic Black persons," the report reads.

Part of the reason for that is the pandemic. Many public pools were closed and access to lessons became an issue.

FOX 5 caught up with mom Malika Moore at the Goldfish Swim School in Silver Spring. Her 4-year-old daughter began lessons at the start of the year.

"Starting in January, she didn't really want to put her head underwater, so her water comfortability has improved so much," Moore said. "Last week, her swim instructor threw something at the bottom of the pool, and she was able to dive down and get it and was so proud of herself."

And that gives her a lot of peace of mind for mom as summer rolls around.

"Being proactive is really the best thing. Because when you think about it, during summertime you go to amusement parks, camps, they go swimming - they're always exposed to water," Moore said, who added that she took swim lessons as a child as well.

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Goldfish swim director Sam Ingersoll's number one piece of advice is to always assign a water guardian when children are near any body of water - one person with a single focus.

"No distractions, no phones, no magazines, no books, their entire job is to keep their eyes on the water," Ingersoll said.

More swimming safety tips:

-Swap out floaties and puddle jumpers for Coast Guard-approved life jackets.

-Put barriers in place to prevent kids from accessing water when it's not swim time - 69 percent of drowning deaths of kids under 5 happen when they're not expected to be swimming.

-Make sure your kids know the best way to get in and out of the pool safely.

"That's a really big one that people don't actually learn because they think they know it already but you have to learn how to climb all the way out of the pool," Ingersoll added.

Another piece of advice you may not have thought of - the color of your kids' swimsuits.

Experts say to avoid using blue or green and go for bright neon colors instead, so they stand out in the water in case of an emergency.