A trip to a waterpark can be a fun adventure for a family, couple or group of friends. Whether you prefer relaxing in a tube on a lazy river or riding a water roller coaster, a trip to one of the nation's many waterparks (which attract nearly 80 million guests annually) offers something for everyone. However, the fun does not come without risks. Park-goers should be careful to follow rules and avoid hazardous situations to mitigate these risks.
Drowning poses one of the greatest threats at waterparks, especially for young children. The ability to swim is the most important prerequisite for attendance at a waterpark. Before you plan a trip to a waterpark, make sure that all the guests who are planning to ride the rides know how to swim well. This is not just a requirement to ride the rides. Wave pools, rivers and rapids can sometimes be unpredictably deep or full of waves, and shaky swimmers may not be able to handle them. Another important way to avoid swimming hazards is to use the buddy system, i.e., make sure no one in your party ever swims alone. Do not swim in water that is unmarked or does not have a lifeguard present. Many parks provide life jackets at little or no charge—have those in your party who are nervous about their swimming abilities use them.
Waterpark engineers design rides to be safe for all riders who fit the height and weight requirements. Small children or people who do meet the weight standards should not ride the rides at all. Water rides, unlike traditional roller coasters, do not usually have harnesses or head restraints. Water riders generally sit on mats or in tubes and propel down a slide into the water. This type of rider freedom comes with a long list of possible risks. For example, riders can fall off their mats or tubes, which can lead to bodily injuries. Even if they remain on their mats, however, the lack of head restraint can cause whiplash or neck injuries. To avoid rider collisions or injuries that may result from failing to obey directions, it is crucial that every rider follow the rules and instructions that are unique for each ride.
In rare cases, waterpark guests may be subjected to contaminated water. Waterborne illnesses are easily spread in these instances. The most common cause of water contamination is small children who are not potty trained and not wearing proper diapers. Waterparks go to great lengths to avoid the spread of these diseases by following proper public health laws and performing constant maintenance and surveillance. However, contamination is still possible. Guests can protect themselves by washing their hands after encountering shallow, standing water and being sure not to swallow any water. People who are feeling ill should not enter the water.
Waterpark attendance is highest on clear sunny days, which means that guests are extremely susceptible to sunburn, heat exhaustion or even heat stroke. Most waterparks are open areas with little shelter or buildings to block the sun, so spending a whole day at a park can be dangerous for people with fair, sensitive skin. Be sure to wear waterproof sunscreen (and reapply it every few hours), along with a hat and a shirt with sleeves to wear over your bathing suit while you are walking around.