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Summer is upon us. People on vacation and students on break from school often spend summer days at a neighborhood pool or the beach. Current hot, sunny weather surely makes a dip in the water all the more refreshing.

Recent water-related tragedies, however, should remind us of the dangers that quickly can turn a casual dip in the water into a family crisis.

A 6-year-old boy died on May 20, a day after he was found unresponsive in a community pool in Edinburg. On May 21, a 13-year-old Harlingen girl was swept out into the Gulf of Mexico by a rip current. Her body was found the following day.

The two incidents are different in nature, but together they highlight the reality that any body of water can claim a life — and that adults should never leave children unattended.

Children cool off and have fun as temperatures swell into the 100s inside Pirate’s Cove at the Edinburg Municipal Pool on Monday, June 26, 2023, in Edinburg. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

Backyard and neighborhood pools are convenient and inviting. They might be close to home, but children shouldn’t be allowed to use them without supervision. Some apartments and RV parks have pools with lifeguards or attendants, but most don’t. No one wants to find a child in a pool after it’s too late to save him or her. Swimming classes are recommended for all children, but they don’t relieve parents of the need to watch them; many expert swimmers have drowned after they’ve encountered unexpected problems.

Our proximity to South Padre Island offers Rio Grande Valley residents welcome opportunities to enjoy a day at one of the country’s top-ranked beaches. The waves that make the island beaches so inviting to swimmers, surfers and beachcombers, however, can turn treacherous without warning, as the young Harlingen girl’s family tragically discovered.

People who plan a trip to the beach should gather as much information as possible to guard against hidden dangers that can raise the risk of entering the water. Cameron County’s website as well as its Cameron County Beach Patrol Facebook page provide information regarding heavy beach closures, heavy winds and other conditions that can surprise — and endanger — beachgoers.

Such dangers aren’t limited to weather and tide-related risks. Toxic algal infestations such as red tide and even jellyfish swarms have invaded waters off the coast, and people should be aware of the risks.

A view of the Gulf of Mexico coastline along Isla Blanca Park on Thursday, June 6, 2024, in South Padre Island. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald)

They also should learn about rip and longshore currents and how to deal with them. Rip currents flow away from the beach instead of toward it. People who feel themselves being pulled out to sea should not try to fight the current but rather try to swim parallel to the coastline until they are out of the current. Swimming back to shore should then be easier. Longshore currents pull people parallel to the coastline and they might not realize the movement until they look landward and find themselves in front of a different area than where they entered.

Such unexpected conditions can cause children in the water to disappear from view if their parents or guardians on shore aren’t constantly vigilant — so don’t be distracted.

A dip in the pool or the gulf can offer welcome relief from the South Texas heat. We must always practice safety so that a day in the water doesn’t turn tragic.