With the summer months upon us, days at the beach or swimming in the pool provide a welcome relief to the heat and family fun. But swimming in a natural body of water or pool, or enjoying the day on a boat can be risky. About half of all drownings occur in natural water settings. Drowning occurs in all age groups and all ethnicities but drowning kills more children 1-4 years of age than anything else except birth defects. Among children 1-14, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death (after motor vehicle crashes). Children 1-4 most often drown in swimming pools, hot tubs, and spas. Older children, teens and young adults typically drown in natural water settings, such as lakes and rivers.
Can Drowning Be Prevented?
Definitely. Here are some tips to help people stay safe in the water:
Closely supervise children around water whether in a pool or lake or in the bath tub. Adults often expect children to splash and show obvious signs of distress when they are having trouble in the water. However, drowning victims, especially children, rarely are able to call for help or wave their arms, and thus usually drown silently. Supervisors of preschool age children should provide “touch supervision”; be close enough to reach the child at all times. Because drowning occurs quickly and quietly, adults should not be involved in any other distracting activity (such as reading, playing cards, talking on the phone or texting, or mowing the lawn) while supervising children, even if lifeguards are present.
Use the buddy system. Always swim with a buddy and select swimming sites with lifeguards when possible.
Avoid alcohol when supervising children or before swimming, boating, or water skiing. The effects of alcohol are heightened by sun exposure and heat, and alcohol influences balance, coordination and judgment.
Learn to swim; make sure children can swim and float. Swimming is not just a recreational activity; it is a potential life-saving skill.
Air-filled or foam toys are not safety devices. Don’t use air-filled or foam toys, such as “water wings,” “noodles,” or inner-tubes, instead of life jackets. These toys are not life jackets and are not designed to keep swimmers safe.
Don’t let swimmers hyperventilate before swimming underwater to try to hold their breath for long periods of time. This can cause them to pass out (sometimes called “hypoxic blackout” or “shallow water blackout”) and drown.
Learn CPR. In the time it takes for paramedics to arrive, CPR skills performed by a bystander could save someone’s life and improve their chances for a full recovery.
Always wear appropriately fitted life jackets when boating. This important regardless of the distance traveled, the size of the boat or the swimming ability of the boaters. Potentially, half of all boating deaths might be prevented with the use of life jackets.
Know the local weather conditions and forecast before swimming or boating. Strong winds and thunderstorms with lightning strikes are dangerous. Get out of the water immediately upon the beginning of bad weather.
Watch for dangerous waves and signs of rip currents. If you are caught in a rip current, swim parallel to shore until you are free of the current and then swim diagonally toward shore.
Know the terrain. Be aware of and avoid drop-offs and hidden obstacles in natural water sites. Always enter water feet first.
If you have a swimming pool at home:
Install Four-sided Fencing. The fence should separate the house and play area from the pool area. The fence should be at least four foot high with self-closing and self-latching gates that open outward with latches that are out of reach of children. Also, consider additional barriers such as automatic door locks and alarms to
Clear the Pool and Deck of Toys. Remove floats, balls and other toys from the pool and surrounding area immediately after use so children are not tempted to enter the pool area unsupervised.