Choosing a safe and high-quality swimming spot is one of the prerequisites so that recreation by the water does not turn into a disaster. To reduce the potential risks of resting in an inappropriate place, Center for Disease Prevention and Control (SPKC) in cooperation with the association “Swim safely” campaign “The price of recklessness. Don’t jump!” explains what to pay attention to when choosing a swimming place.
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There are 58 official swimming spots in Latvia. The official swimming area is well-maintained – it is clean, not overgrown, but children’s playgrounds and changing cabins do not guarantee safety. Experts emphasize that not all official swimming areas have lifeguards or lifebuoys available. The only thing that ensures safe swimming is everyone’s own responsibility and understanding of the conditions suitable for recreation near and on the water.
“Safe swimming starts at home, with family and friends agreeing on the rules – do not enter the water alone, do not swim deeper than your chest and go to the shore at the first sign of fatigue. Before going into the water, it is essential to evaluate all the conditions – the swimming place, the water body, the weather, as well as the swimming skills of each swimmer ,” emphasizes Zane Gemze, the founder of the association “Swim safely”.
What to pay attention to when choosing a safe swimming place:
- The shore of the swimming pool is flat and has a hard base.
- The water is stagnant or with minimal current. There are no openings or other dangerous places nearby.
- The swimming area is not overgrown, it is easily accessible and other people also swim in it.
- When near any body of water, always walk around it first. It is important to understand what the bed is like, where the depth changes, what the currents are like. You should always re-examine a swimming spot that you got to know the previous summer as well.
- It is safer to swim in official swimming areas – places that have been specially created and improved for this purpose. And it is safest in those where lifeguards are on duty.
In official swimming areas during the active swimming season, from May 15 to September 15, Health Inspection monitors the water quality of swimming areas once a month and gives an opinion as to whether swimming is allowed, not recommended or prohibited in a particular place. Part of Latvia’s unofficial swimming areas, thanks to the active activity of local governments, are also properly managed, improved and hygienic requirements are ensured, including water quality tests.
“Specialists of the Health Inspection monitor the official swimming areas both visually and in the laboratory. In the laboratory, microbiological indicators are determined: fecal contamination indicators, intestinal rods and intestinal enterococci, while visually during water sampling, the color of the water is assessed, special attention is paid to floating waste and oil products in the water and to the process of the multiplication of cyanobacteria,” says Normunds Kadiķis, head of the Environmental Health Department of the Health Inspectorate, emphasizing that in cases where the results of the analyzes of water samples of swimming areas show that the water does not meet the requirements, the inspection sets bathing restrictions – a recommendation not to swim or a ban on swimming – and the relevant information is posted at the information stand of the specific swimming area. The advice not to swim should be followed by young children, the elderly and people with chronic diseases whose immune system is weakened.
The official list of bathing places can be found on the website of the Health Inspectorate here. At the same time, experts emphasize that regardless of whether you are relaxing in an official or unofficial swimming area, children must be watched continuously, because it only takes a few seconds to drown!
SPKC’s campaign “The price of arrogance. Don’t jump!” the aim is to inform about the importance of safe recreation near and on the water, as well as to explain what consequences can arise as a result of reckless behavior when jumping headfirst into the water. More information about the campaign is available here.