13 Secrets Lifeguards Wish You Knew

Stay safe and healthy all season long with these tips from Canadian lifeguards.

1 / 13
Elderly couple talking to lifeguardPhoto: Shutterstock

1. Avoid talking to lifeguards unless it’s absolutely necessary

They’re supposed to listen politely, but chit-chat is distracting. When staff are on the stand, they’re scanning the area and taking head counts every minute or so.

2 / 13
Lifeguard on watchPhoto: Shutterstock

2. Lifeguards sometimes fall asleep on the job

It’s rare, but staff are only human. Staring at the water in the bright sun can be mind-numbing, and the combination of heat and dehydration is a recipe for fatigue.

Avoid dehydration by finding out how much water you should be drinking.

3 / 13
Happy family swimming in public poolPhoto: Shutterstock

3. Parents need to pay attention to their charges

Lifeguards may be the first line of defence, but parents need to stay alert, especially when trained staff aren’t on the scene. More than a third of drownings of children under five happen when caregivers are present but distracted, according to the Lifesaving Society.

Here are seven essential steps of CPR everyone should know.

4 / 13
Brother and sister swimming in beachPhoto: Shutterstock

4. Don’t equate standing with safety

Many parents feel comfortable leaving their two- and three-year-olds in half a metre of water where they can touch the bottom. But with their top-heavy bodies, toddlers can’t necessarily right themselves if they lose their footing. “Always stay within arm’s reach,” says J.P. Molin, com­munications manager of the Lifesaving Society’s Ontario branch.

Check out these reasons your sunscreen might not be working.

5 / 13
Woman drowning in public poolPhoto: Shutterstock

5. Drowning doesn’t look like flailing and splashing

It’s not like you see in the movies—drowning is often silent and swift. Lifeguards are trained to spot the subtle signs, which can include an upright posture, mouth bobbing in and out of the water and a glassy-eyed stare.

6 / 13
Children swimming in public poolPhoto: Shutterstock

6. Hear thunder? It's time to leave the pool

It doesn’t matter if no one’s seen any lightning—if you hear thunder, you’ll be ushered from the pool and indoors for at least 30 minutes. That’s how long Environment Canada recommends keeping swimmers out of any body of water after the last rumble.

Don't miss the real reason your dog freaks out during a thunderstorm.

7 / 13
Female lifeguard on watchPhoto: Shutterstock

7. Some lifeguards are very young

They can be certified to work at public pools and beaches starting at 16, with wading pool attendants as young as 14.

8 / 13
Lifeguard on watchPhoto: Shutterstock

8. Lifeguarding is no joe job

Lifeguards undergo up to 100 hours of training by the time they start, and more for beach, water-park and manager­ial positions. They participate in emergency simulations multiple times a year and must recertify their credentials every two years.

Check out the world's five best waterpark resorts!

9 / 13
Lifeguard watching public poolPhoto: ChameleonsEye/Shutterstock

9. The job involves more than saving people

Lifeguards might also need to perform first aid for minor cuts and bruises and manage the pool filtration system.

Always make sure you always have these first aid kit essentials on hand.

10 / 13
Woman putting her feet in poolPhoto: Shutterstock

10. Never come to the pool with bare feet

The virus that causes plantar warts thrives in moist environments. Other skin infection–producing viruses and bacteria, like MRSA and molluscum contagiosum, also lurk in locker rooms and on personal items. Always sit on a clean towel and wear shoes or flip-flops.

Here are 11 reasons you should never make flip-flops your go-to summer shoes.

11 / 13
Happy boy in swimming poolPhoto: Shutterstock

11. Don't go around splashing with your mouth open

Researchers at the University of Alberta estimate that an average-sized public pool has up to 75 litres of urine in it. Yuck!

Check out the 15 skin cancer myths you need to stop believing right now.

12 / 13
Boy jumping into poolPhoto: Shutterstock

12. There are actually lots of reasons to avoid swallowing water

A 2017 U.S. study found that one in four adults reported that they would swim within an hour of having diarrhea, and 52 per cent rarely or never shower before going for a dip.

Discover the 11 public places with the most germs.

13 / 13
Lifeguards performing CPRPhoto: Shutterstock

13. Your actions can save a life

If someone needs help, grab anything that floats. A frantic drowning victim will claw and climb on you in an attempt to get out of the water, pushing you under. Instead, throw something buoyant to them.

Looking forward to a swim? Check out Canada's top 10 beaches!

Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada