Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Staying Safe in the Water

by Amanda Rose, M.D.

Summer is here, and there is nothing better when it’s hot outside than cooling down in the pool!  But as fun as it is, we need to remember that water can be dangerous.  In fact, each year in the United States, more than 300 children age five and younger die from drowning.  The number of drowning incidents increases as much as 89% in the summer months.  Most of these cases happen in home swimming pools.  Here are some tips to help keep your family safe this summer by the pool.

First of all, remember that it only takes seconds for a child to drown and it happens silently.  Active supervision is the most important step in preventing drowning.  In cases where adults were present when a child drowned, the adults were almost always distracted by some other activity.  If there is more than one adult present, one person at a time must be designated as the one responsible for watching the children.  Reading a book, sending a text message, or even talking to another person can distract you enough to be unsafe.  You should have a phone nearby in case of an emergency.

Also, a young child can drown in only a few inches of water. They can fall into a pool, a hot tub, or even a bucket of water.  If you have a pool at home, it should have a fence that is at least 4 feet tall that goes all the way around it and has a gate that will close and latch itself.  If you have a hot tub, the cover should be on and locked when it is not in use.  Make sure to drain bathtubs and buckets of water when not in use.

Another important tip is to learn infant and child CPR. If someone drowns you must immediately start CPR to keep blood flowing to the brain and other organs.  It may take some time for the paramedics to arrive when you call 911, and having someone perform CPR during that time can make a huge difference.

Learn more at www.poolsafely.gov. 
Children who take swimming lessons may cut their risk of drowning by 88%.  The most critical thing they learn from swimming lessons is how to float.  If they can stay calm and keep themselves afloat in the water, they have a better chance of being rescued even if they are not able to get out of the water alone.  However, even if your child knows how to swim, that is not a substitute for careful supervision while they are in the water.  If your child cannot swim well on his or her own, you should use a life jacket and stay within reach of the child.  Make sure the life jacket is right for the child’s size.  It should keep the child’s head above water without slipping over the chin or ears when they are floating. 
When at the beach or on the lake, most of these rules are the same.  In addition, teach children the differences between swimming in a pool and swimming in an open body of water. They need to learn how to deal with changes in the weather, currents, and waves.  Always swim in designated swimming areas, and in front of a lifeguard if there is one.  Everyone should wear a life jacket when boating or doing water sports, even those who know how to swim.  Over 85% of boating accident victims who drown are not wearing life jackets.  Do not be fooled by “calm water,” because half of recreational boating deaths happen when the water is calm.  The U.S. Coast Guard offers boating safety courses to teach the entire family how to be safe on the water.  
I hope these tips will help you and your family have a fun and safe summer!

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