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Be Safe Around Water

Published in For the Health of It Author: Cynthia Gronau,MD

It is important to be aware of how important water safety is and how prevalent drowning can be. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children ages 1-14. For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency care for submersion injuries.

"While we need to pay extra attention to children playing near water, we also need to be responsible as adults in and near water as well," explains Dr. Cynthia Gronau, Family Medicine physician. "Lack of swimming ability, no life jacket, alcohol use and cold water temperatures can make water activities deadly."

Wear a life jacket

Most boating deaths that occurred during 2010 were caused by drowning, with 88% of victims not wearing life jackets. Life jackets should fit properly and serve the correct weight for the person using the jacket.

Also, swimming in open water takes more energy than swimming in pools so swimmers should stay near the shore.

"Unintentional drowning is a horrible thing, but thankfully we can all make intentional choices when in or near the water— wear a life jacket, be aware of swimming risks and know the swimming abilities of those around you," said Dr. Gronau.

Assign a water watcher

"No matter their age, it is imperative to watch children while they are playing in or near water," Dr. Gronau said. "Consider assigning a water watcher to be responsible for watching children playing in the water without any other distractions."

Both Safe Kids USA and Abbey’s Hope have created water watcher cards and badges which can be printed or obtained for distribution in your community. Whoever is holding the card or wearing the badge is responsible for watching the children playing in the water. This means no eating, drinking, talking on the phone, reading a book, or chatting with friends.

"Life jackets and floating devices are helpful for young swimmers but they do not replace the need for adult supervision," Dr. Gronau said. “Drowning can happen quickly and quietly–even in the presence of a lifeguard.”

Adults should always be within reach of young children when in or around water. Children should also be enrolled in swimming lessons at a young age so they are comfortable with the water and strong enough swimmers to get to shore or the side of the pool.

Be aware of water temperature

Swimmers or anyone on the water should be aware of the water temperature. Swimming in water that is too cold is extremely dangerous and can make swimming difficult—even for the most skilled swimmers. Cold water often causes shock and panic and can lead to numbing the swimmers arms and legs to the point of uselessness.

Avoid alcohol

According to the CDC, alcohol use is involved in up to 70% of deaths associated with water recreation. Adults should never mix alcohol with swimming, boating or water skiing. Even if an adult says they know their limit, the effects of alcohol can be heightened by sun exposure and heat.