Who doesn’t love spending a day at the water park? Whether you’re cooling off in the lazy river or shredding down the slides, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. But with so much fun happening, it’s important to be aware of water park safety. Here’s what you need to know.
Water parks are tightly regulated to keep you safe, but accidents still happen. Small children are at risk of drowning, wet surfaces can lead to falls, and the water and common areas are breeding grounds for bacteria. You can take your own cheap test strips to check the water quality at the pool.
There are over 1,300 water parks in the United States, and when it’s the season for water fun, these parks get the attention of millions of people. That means that you as a visitor should do some homework to find out which parks are the best for you and your family. Let’s look at some of dangers of water parks and how you should behave to ensure you have a good time without any accidents.
How Safe Are Water Parks?
There will always be risks with activities involving large crowds and thrilling rides. But overall, water parks have improved their safety standards over time and are now considered quite safe.
In the United States, approximately 1,300 water parks are visited by over 80 million people each year. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported around 4,200 injuries associated with water parks in 2015. That means the chance of being injured at a water park is less than 0.0001%.
Most of the injuries are minor, like scrapes and bruises. But some more serious accidents have occurred, including drownings and spinal cord injuries — one person drowned in a water park in 2015.
Unfortunately, water parks aren’t regulated by any federal agency in the USA. Each state has its own safety requirements. As a result, there is no consistent safety standard across the country and no way to estimate each water park’s safety.
This means you need to do your research and check out the safety record of any water parks you’re considering visiting. Remember that even the most popular and well-reviewed water parks can have a history of accidents, so don’t let your guard down just because a park has a good reputation.
What Are the Dangers of Water Parks?
While at the water park, it’s important to stay alert and aware of the potential dangers. Here are some of the most common accidents that occur at water parks:
Drowning is the leading cause of death in children under five years old, and it’s a risk at any body of water, including in water parks. While you may think deep pools are the only places where drowning can occur, it can also happen in shallow water.
Even waves pools with only a few inches of water can be dangerous if you’re not paying attention.
Slips, trips, and falls:
Wet surfaces can of course be very slippery, and this is one of the most common types of accidents that occur at water parks.
Water parks are known for having lots of steps, ladders, and walkways, so it’s important to be careful when walking around. Take your time, and don’t run. Wear shoes that have good traction to avoid slipping.
When you’ve so many people in such close proximity, it’s no surprise that water parks can be a breeding ground for bacteria. While treated water is presumed safe, research has confirmed the presence of harmful microbes in water parks.
This includes Pseudomonas, which can cause skin infections, E. coli, which can cause diarrhea, and the infamous Cryptosporidium (or “crypto” for short), which is resistant to chlorine and can cause severe stomach illness.
And we all know, people also pee and poop in pools, which spreads germs. The best way to protect yourself is to avoid swallowing any water, shower before you get in the pool, and don’t go in if you have any open cuts or wounds.
Luckily, a simple set of test strips like these (on Amazon) can allow you to gain some information on the water before you take a dip. And what’s great about these is you can pop them in your travel bag pretty easily to check pools or hot tubs wherever you go!
Water slides and other types of attractions can be lots of fun, but they also come with a risk of injury. The most common injuries are scrapes and bruises, but more serious injuries, like broken bones and concussions, can also occur. In rare cases, water park rides have caused disabilities or even death. To reduce your risk of injury, follow the posted rules for each ride and listen to the lifeguards.
Spending a day in the sun can be great, but you need to be careful to avoid burning. Wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and reapply it regularly. Don’t forget to put sunscreen on your lips, ears, and the tops of your feet. Wear a hat or visor to protect your face, and stay in the shade when you can.
How Do I Find the Safest Water Parks in My Area?
If you’ve got a vacation coming up and you’re thinking about visiting a water park, there are a few things you can do to make sure you choose a safe one.
- Public reviews are a great way to get an idea of what other people think about a particular water park. You can find reviews on websites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Google. Remember that people are more likely to write a review if they had a bad experience, but that also means you’d know about any major safety concerns.
- Check out the water park’s website and social media pages. You can usually find a lot of information about a water park on their website, including their safety record. Many water parks also post videos of their rides, so you can get an idea of what they’re like before you go. If you’re unsure, you can always call the water park and ask about their safety procedures.
- A simple Google search of the park’s name should also turn up any news stories about the park. This can be a good way to find out about any accidents or safety concerns that have been reported. Ridesdatabase.org is also a great resource for finding out about news and safety regulation in water parks around the country.
Are Water Parks Really Full of Germs?
When a big crowd of people is clustered into a small space, they’re always going to be microorganisms traded and transferred. So yes, water parks also contain a huge number of germs, and it’s not just in water, but in places like within shower stalls, around lockers, and on benches.
Although pool water is tightly chlorinated, people sweat, sneeze, and cough in water. Even pee and poo aren’t uncommon. It’s no surprise that water parks can be a breeding ground for germs.
There have been several recorded outbreaks of gastrointestinal illnesses linked to water parks. During one instance in 2015, over 1,800 people got sick after swimming in the water at Seneca Lake State Park in New York. Tests of the water confirmed the presence of Cryptosporidium, a chlorine-resistant parasite.
Are Water Parks as Unsafe as They Seem?
While it’s true that water parks can be a hotbed for germs, it’s also important to keep things in perspective. The chances of you actually getting sick from swimming in a pool are pretty low. In fact, you’re more likely to get sick from touching common surfaces like doorknobs and handrails than you are from swimming in a pool.
If you’re really worried about getting injured at a water park, remember that most visits are safe and incident-free. Injuries do happen, but most of them are minor scrapes and bruises.
Water parks have standard rules and regulations to help ensure their guests’ safety. As long as you follow the rules and use common sense, there’s no reason to think you’ll be anything other than safe and happy on your next water park visit.
Tips for Staying Safe at Water Parks This Summer
Here are a few tips to help you stay safe at water parks this summer:
- Put your valuables in a locker. Don’t take them on the rides with you.
- Wear sunscreen and reapply it often. Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and reapply it regularly, even if it’s waterproof.
- Follow the rules. Water parks have rules in place for a reason. Make sure you follow all posted signs and listen to lifeguards when they’re speaking.
- Don’t run. Running is one of the leading causes of injury at water parks. Take your time walking around and be aware of your surroundings.
- Keep an eye on children. If you’re bringing young kids to the water park, make sure you stay with them at all times. It’s also a good idea to equip them with a life jacket or floatation device.
- Don’t drink alcohol. Drinking alcohol can impair your judgment and mobility, leading to accidents. Save the booze for after your enjoy your time at the water park.
- Be aware of your limits. If you have any medical conditions that might make it unsafe for you to ride certain attractions, or if you aren’t comfortable with certain activities, make sure you know your limits.
- Shower before and after swimming. This will help rinse off any bacteria or chemicals on your skin.
- Check for open wounds. If you have any cuts or scrapes, it’s best to avoid swimming altogether.
- Listen to your body. If you feel cold or unwell, it’s best to get out of the water and warm up.
- Avoid swallowing pool water. Pool water can contain harmful bacteria that can make you sick. If you do accidentally swallow some, make sure to drink plenty of clean water afterward.