In 2018, Florida set a tourism record for the eighth consecutive year drawing 126.1 million out-of-state visitors, and this year AAA ranks Orlando as the No. 1 summer destination in the world! With Florida poised to break another tourism record and many residents looking forward to holiday weekends and vacations, the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) encourages everyone to maximize the health benefits and fun of days spent in and around Florida’s waters: play it safe and keep it healthy.

Beach Swimming, Lake Swimming and Everywhere In-Between

It’s obvious that swimming in open water is different than swimming in a pool but most people are not aware how vastly different swimming in open water is. Even the strongest swimmer can get in trouble swimming in open water. That’s why everyone — children, teens and adults — should never swim alone and always use the buddy system when swimming.

Parents know to supervise their small children, but older children, this includes teens, need to be watched, too. Children ages 1–4 are more likely to drown in home swimming pools and children ages 5–19 are more likely to drown in natural bodies of water. Someone watching from the shore who is aware of where swimmers are at all times is an important layer of protection.

Attention to safety signs and flags can help swimmers avoid dangerous conditions and currents like rip tide — delivers beach forecasts and current statements by ZIP code.

Open cuts or wounds should not be immersed in water; if there’s bacteria in the water, they can enter the body through a cut or wound. Water should not be swallowed as well.

A cut or wound that happens when swimming, wading or boating should be washed with clean, running water and soap, and covered with a clean, dry waterproof bandage.

All of Florida’s natural waters are home to aquatic life, land animals and plants that should not be approached or touched by people. Swimmers, waders and boaters should also stay away from red tides and algal blooms like blue green algae (cyanobacteria) that occur naturally. Both can cause skin irritation, burning eyes, and throat and breathing irritations.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission posts the status of red tide locations and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection monitors blue green algae.