Protective Swim Gear Tips

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My feet are often cut at the pool. What should I do to prevent this?

Save Your Sole!

The soles of your feet are soft and after being exposed to water, become quite susceptible to cuts and scrapes. If you are going to be underwater for any substantial length of time, wear some protective swimwear on your feet. Swim fins should always have neoprene swim socks underneath. Otherwise, the fins will rub the ankles and heels raw. It is a good idea to wear swim socks or swim shoes in the water even if you aren't wearing fins. This is especially true if you are going to be at the ocean or a lake. There are many things in natural bodies of water that can cut your feet, including shells and glass.

   
What can I wear in the water to protect me from UV rays?

Sun Protective Swimwear

For added protection when sun block just isn't enough, try sun protective swimwear. There are shirts specifically designed for swimming and sun protection. These shirts will be much more hydrodynamic than just a simple coverup. Available in short and long sleeves, they are formfitting and unrestrictive. Also, there are bodysuits available for children and babies that protect their sensitive, fair skin. These garments are available for purchase at surf shops, swim shops, and many Internet stores.

   
How do I prevent swimmer's ear?

Mind Your Nose And Ears

Nose plugs and earplugs are desirable when swimming for great lengths of time. Competitive swimmers really need the protection, as they are moving so fast and turning their head from side to side repeatedly. As a result of this rapid movement, water can easily enter the nose, making it difficult to breath. Also, it can enter the ears, causing a painful condition known as “swimmer's ear”. If water enters the ear despite the added protection, put a few drops of rubbing alcohol in there to dry it out.

   
How can I prevent my fair skin from burning in the sun?

Pick The Right Strength Of Sun Block

Protection from harmful UV rays won't just save you from a lot of pain, it could save your life. The chances of developing skin cancer are greatly increased by overexposure to the sun. Although you may want a gorgeous, deep tan, think about the consequences first. Do you already have a base tan? If not, keep in mind that a fair-skinned person needs a lot of protection from burning. SPF 15 for pale skin will scorch before it tans. Don't worry about the tan, as it will come with time. If you are susceptible to quick sunburns, then go for a higher SPF. Darker skin-types can stick with the SPF 15 or lower.

   
What kind of equipment should a lifeguard have?

Lifeguard Gear

There is a basic collection of equipment for a lifeguard to have with them at the pool or on the beach. When starting a shift, a lifeguard should always make a mental checklist of the following lifeguard gear:

-Rescue Tube

-Rescue Pole

-Ring Buoy

-Sun Block

-Two-way radio/phone

-Whistle

-First Aid Kit

-Spine Board

-Binoculars (for beach)

-Blankets

   
How can I get maximum protection from the sun while on the beach?

Beach Protection

When at the beach, try to stay out of the sun whenever you are out of the water. UV rays reflect off the water and sand at the beach, making it even more dangerous than the pool. A beach umbrella or beach shelter should be erected for you to lounge under. Beach shelters are preferable, as they are a tented structure that keeps more sun out. In addition to protecting you from burns, they will keep give you shade and prevent your body from overheating. Always keep plenty of bottled water handy to prevent dehydration and if you bring snacks, make them fruits for energy.

   
What should a lifeguard where while on duty?

Lifeguard Uniforms

Lifeguards carry around tons of lifeguard equipment. But, it is also one of the few jobs that allow you to wear something as comfortable as a swimsuit, but remember to make it the right kind of swimsuit. It is preferable to wear something that makes yourself recognizable to the public as the area lifeguard. Depending on where you work, there may be a required uniform. If not, then be sure to buy a suit or trunks that are designed for the job. Both Speedo and TYR make durable, practical men's and women's lifeguard swim suits. A simple pair of trunks and t-shirt that says “Lifeguard” on them is preferred for men, usually in red or orange. For women, red or orange is again preferred on a one-piece flyback or modest tankini. A whistle rounds out the uniform, as well as a pair of swim shoes or neoprene socks.

   
How do I prevent my scalp from burning while I am out in the sun?

Don't Forget Your Head

Some of us may be good about applying the appropriate sun block and then forget all about our heads. The top of the head will receive the most of the sun when out in the pool or playing at the beach. Even those of us with a thick head of hair can burn very badly on the scalp (especially on the part!) Buy a protective hat for outdoor swimming. A baseball cap does help the scalp and the face, but you should also consider the back of the neck. No, the best headwear will be one with a bill and a flap in the back, or one with a rim all the way around.

   
What kind of life jacket do I need for skiing?

Choose The Appropriate Lifejacket

A personal flotation device (PFD) is very important to have when participating in water sports. However, there are different types of PFD's available. Be sure that you have purchased the right one for your particular activity. Remember, each type of lifejacket is available in both adult and children's sizes.

Type I PFD- This is the heaviest and most buoyant kind of lifejacket available, preferred in emergency situations on the open water. Type I will be available when sailing on a ship, as they are designed to withstand tough waves and keep an unconscious swimmer facing up, out of the water until help arrives.

Type II PFD- These will fit around the neck and tied around the waste. A medium buoyancy, they are used off shore in situations when help is arriving quickly. They weigh slightly less than the Type I.

Type III PFD- These lifejackets are intended for calm waters and are the most common variety seen in stores. Type III lifejackets are light enough for water sport activities, such as skiing, and require the wearers to place themselves in an upright position.

Type IV PFD- This is a “throwable” personal flotation device and are not intended to be worn. A type IV PFD includes ring buoys, often used by boaters and lifeguards.

   
What kind of special protection do I need while cold water swimming?

Safety In The Open Water

When cold water swimming out in the open water, be sure to wear bright clothing so you won't be struck by any boats. A bright orange swim cap will aid your safety. Always wear an appropriate suit that keeps your body temperature at a healthy minimum and protect for feet from possible sharp items. You should also remember to swim in groups, keep your eye out for buoys as a reference point, and use a variation of swimming strokes so you won't overtire or cramp up.

   
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Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.