Staying Safe Around Holiday Water

June 19, 2024

Focus on the thrill of going on holiday and thoughts will often quickly turn to time spent on the beach, around a pool or by a lake or river. The allure of water is a tremendous one but that is why it can also figure as a factor within numerous major travel insurance claims where water safety has been ignored.

One of the issues would appear to be that many adults – as many as two-thirds in Britain – have never had any formal training in water safety.  That presents a big challenge for many holidaymakers to keep both themselves and their children safe.

Europesure Travel Insurance is this year focusing on water safety and the need to stay safe around holiday waters and offers the following advice.

Photo by EpicMat on Unsplash

General advice

Swimming may be something you have not done for a while, so if thinking of donning trunks, costume or bikini, why not consider getting some practice in, within a safe swimming pool environment at home?  If you have never learned to swim, perhaps it’s time to do so, so check out your lessons options.

Remember what we call the ‘ASK’ rule – Always Supervise Kids.  It’s easy to fall asleep in the sun or lay down on a sunbed and not observe what bored little ones are up to, but don’t do it.  Just a moment of distraction and anything could happen.

Never swim under the influence of alcohol, drugs or with a stomach upset - that is all part of water safety.

Try to swim with other people, rather than solo, and always ensure that children know where to go, if they should get separated from you.

Before you head off on holiday, put the relevant local emergency numbers for the country you are visiting into your phone.  If you see anyone else in trouble, call for help.  Do not try to assist yourself.

Finally, always defer to local knowledge.  If heading to a particular location or beach, do ask your hotel, accommodation provider or Airbnb host if there’s anything you need to be aware of, with regard to safety.

Swimming in the sea: the warning signs

Photo by S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash

If you are planning on doing a spot of sea swimming, remember two key things within water safety, no matter whether you are in the Caribbean or the UK. Firstly, when you arrive at a beach, check for any warning signs. If you can’t read them, use a phone-based translation service or ask someone who speaks your language to explain what they say.

Rip currents can be extremely dangerous. They are formed where a current flows back from wave build-up on the shoreline. A similar situation can occur in estuaries and around piers.  Rip currents are hard to spot but may be distinguished by a patch of churning and choppy water on the sea’s surface.

Anyone caught out by these currents is in danger of getting into difficulties.  If you are caught in such a current, try not to fight it and stay calm.  Swim with it and call out for help, raising a hand to attract attention. Try to swim parallel to the shore until you can hopefully get out of the current.  The rip current is usually operating within a fairly narrow strip of water that is 30 to 100 feet wide.   You may be able to see where waves are breaking and that indicates the edge of the current, so swim towards it.

Once you feel that you have escaped the current, try to move back diagonally towards the beach. Also, remember that most rip currents weaken 46-91 metres from shore, so stay calm and you may detect where the current has ceased to control you and then be able to move at a diagonal back to the beach.  If you cannot manage to swim, try to float until the current weakens or someone arrives to help.

If you simply get tired and need help whilst swimming at other times, call for help, raise your arm and float calmly on your back.

When arriving at a beach look out for any flags that are flying to indicate the level of water safety.  Whilst different countries can have slightly different ways of warning beach-goers, there are some more common uses of flags.  

A red flag will most probably be telling you it is dangerous to enter the water.  Red over yellow on a flag typically means that you should only swim between the flags on a lifeguarded beach.  A black and white quartered flag usually denotes a surfing area, so swimmers should keep out.  A flag with red and white quarters often shows that sharks are present in the waters.

Also study the wind direction. If a windsock shows that the wind is blowing out to sea, do not go into the water with an inflatable.  It is actually best water safety advice to never take an inflatable out to sea. Save them for the pool.

Remember that many holiday beaches will not have a lifeguard patrolling the shore, so you need to keep on top of your own safety.

Sea swimming: other water safety advice

Photo by Hansel Gonzalez on Unsplash

Never swim in the sea if there is thunder and lightning activity evident.  Do not return to the beach until at least 30 minutes after such a storm has passed over.  If you need to leave the water and shelter somewhere, look for a substantial building or a hard-topped vehicle, not a small shed or rain shelter.

If in an area in which sharks could be present, do not go into the water with any form of wound and do not wear bright swimwear or jewellery.  Do not swim in twilight or darkness.  Do not ignore any shark warnings or local advice on this point.

Also note any warnings relating to jellyfish and be careful of jellyfish that have been washed up.  A jellyfish with wet tentacles can still sting and tentacles detached from a jellyfish can do the same.  If stung, do not rinse the sting with water, as that can release more poison.  Seek lifeguard help or assistance from a local who knows what best to do.

Be careful around coral reefs, which can be habitats for poisonous fish and sea snakes but also very sharp and places where strong currents can materialise and significant changes in depth can occur. Be similarly careful around rocks and never dive into the water until you are 100 per cent certain that it is safe.

Always be mindful of water craft such as jet skis and boats and do not swim where other types of watercraft may be operating.

Pool safety

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Always supervise children around the pool and do not allow them to run poolside, where water can make things slippery and dangerous.  Quickly familiarise yourself with pool depths and pool safety signs as part of your water safety planning and do not allow children to swim in water beyond their capability.  Remember that armbands and flotation aids are just that – aids.  There is no substitute for proper supervision and that should be from you, even if a lifeguard is present.

Do not swim on a full stomach and do not dive in to a pool unless the depth is sufficient for that purpose.

Acclimatise yourself to the water temperature rather than simply jumping into a pool and potentially suffering water shock. 

Inland waters and water safety

Photo by Polina Kocheva on Unsplash

Remember the same rules regarding water shock and never jump or dive straight into water. Make sure that any area for swimming is clear of rocks and do not dive into water in which rocks are present under the surface or where the depth is not sufficient.  

Watch out for bad weather in the same way that you would in a marine environment and be very careful around riverbanks after periods of heavy rain, as they can become unstable and slippery.

Look out for any safety warnings around rivers, where strong and dangerous currents can again exist and where you could potentially be swept into rapids.  Do not fool around on ropes or trees overhanging rivers.

Inland water may seem tempting but could be unhealthy and the source of various diseases – even in Europe and the UK.  Do not swim anywhere that may come with this risk or where there could also be dangerous wildlife such as crocodiles and alligators, hippos and piranhas.

Water safety and holiday insurance

Not every water-related incident will be your fault.  Should you be injured in or around water, as long as you have not broken alcohol or drug rules, or participated in a water sport not included with your travel insurance policy, you should be able to call on your travel insurance for help.

Do remember that there are around 85 holiday drownings involving Brits abroad alone each year, so sad though it is to mention, there is also a need for some holidaymakers’ bodies to be brought home to their families.  Again, travel insurance can be essential for that reason.

Avoid what can be considerable dangers, by following the rules, being sensible and not putting you and your family at risk.  Have fun but don’t be foolish.

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These travel insurance products are brought to you by Europesure Insurance. For EU and EEA policies: Status Europesure Insurance Cyprus is a trading name of Status Insurance Agents, Sub-Agents and Consultants CY Ltd which is authorised and regulated by the Insurance Companies Control Service in Cyprus, number 5015. Incorporated in Cyprus, Number HE394801: 5 Rafael Santi, 1st Floor, Office 101, 6052 Larnaca, Cyprus. Status Insurance Agents, Sub-Agents and Consultants CY Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of Status Insurance Management Ltd. For UK and Gibraltar policies, Europesure Insurance is a trading name of Status Insurance Management Ltd which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the UK. Their FCA number is 305697. Registered in England Number 1785590: First Floor, Jebsen House, 53-61 High Street, Ruislip, Middlesex, HA4 7BD.
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