Nothing can make the summer heat melt away faster than a dip in the water. Whether in a pool, an ocean or a lake, my kids and I love taking a swim to cool off and get some exercise. But in the midst of the splashing and fun, it’s important to make sure that you’re keeping yourself and your family safe.
Believe it or not, about 10 people die from accidental drowning every day. One in 5 of these are children ages 14 and younger. And according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), for every child who dies of drowning, there are 5 more who are treated in emergency rooms for nonfatal water-related injuries that can result in brain damage and long-term disability. Make sure that you know the simple safety tips that could save your or a loved one’s life.
Major risk factors for drowning are inability to swim, unsupervised or poorly supervised water access, failure to wear life jackets or other flotation devices, alcohol use and seizure disorders. For adults and adolescents, alcohol is involved in 70% of water-related deaths. Eighty percent of drowning victims are male, and children between ages 1 and 4 have the highest drowning rates. Location matters too. Young children are most likely to die in home swimming pools, while the bathtub is a more common site for people with seizure disorders.
Here’s how to stay safe in the water:
Know how to recognize and escape a rip current. Rip currents, which are strong currents that form in the ocean and can pull swimmers deep out to sea, kill over 100 Americans a year. Water that is discolored, choppy, foamy, or moving in a channel away from shore could signal a rip current. If you find that you’re stuck in a rip current, don’t panic and try to swim straight toward shore, since this won’t work and will simply exhaust you. Rather, swim parallel to the current (usually parallel to the shore) until you are out of the current, then swim diagonally to shore.
Give your children swimming lessons. Most young children who die from drowning were last seen within five minutes and were under the care of one or more parents at the time. Giving kids aged 1-4 formal swimming lessons can reduce their risk of drowning by 88%.
Swim supervised. Always swim with a buddy or lifeguard nearby and make sure there is a (non-distracted) adult directly supervising any swimming children. Don’t let children play games where they hyperventilate before going underwater or try to hold their breath as long as they can – this can cause them to pass out and drown.
Fence off the pool. If you have a pool at home, surround it with fencing that is at least 4-feet high and has latches that are well out of reach of children. Automatic door locks and alarms can also help prevent children from slipping in unnoticed.
Don’t drink and swim. Do not drink alcohol before or during swimming, boating, water-skiing or other water activities.
Wear a life jacket. Any time you’re in a boat, you should always wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket, regardless of how strong a swimmer you are. Young or inexperienced swimmers should wear these any time they’re around water. Floating toys or other floating devices are not sufficient to save your life in case of emergency.
Learn CPR. Drowning can happen within minutes, and by the time emergency personnel arrive, it could be too late. Make sure you and everyone in your family knows how to perform CPR with this printable CPR guide.