There are many adages about staying safe, such as “safety isn’t expensive – it’s priceless” or “safety doesn’t happen by accident.”
As we near the end of the school year and the start of summer, these sayings remind families to keep water safety in mind. As warmer temperatures begin, families will be in search of fun water activities, like heading to the pools, beaches, lakes, rivers and ponds to cool off and enjoy the outdoors. Swimming and playing in the water are not without risks, but there are steps families can take to ensure everyone stays safe.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are approximately 10 drowning deaths in the United States every day, and the World Health Organization (WHO) states drowning is the third most common cause of accidental injury death. On the up-side, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) indicate in a research article that formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by 88% in children ages 1 – 4. In addition, 91% of drowning victims who receive CPR survive, as reported by the Swiftwater Rescue instructor group.
While water can be treacherous, there are many ways to keep safe and still enjoy the water. The key is to have ongoing communication with your family about safety, not just a one-and-done conversation. Before heading out to engage in water activities with the family, make sure everyone knows how to stay safe and exactly what to do in case of an emergency. Once the entire family is empowered with safety knowledge and preparedness skills, the whole family can enjoy worry-free water fun.
The first step family members can take to prevent drowning is to enroll in swimming lessons. This is a great way to help keep everyone safe in the water and teach them to be strong swimmers. It’s best to start at a young age, so families can be proactive about water safety and enroll family members of all ages in swimming lessons. It’s also worthwhile to have a family member get the official CPR certification.
When near residential pools, it’s important to have them enclosed with a four-sided fence, with a self-latching, self-closing gate and keep
objects away from the fence that children could use to climb over it, such as furniture or pool toys. Other devices like alarms and pool safety covers may be helpful too. Homes with pools should also have alarms on doors or windows with direct access to the pool. Children can
drown in very small amounts of water, so empty and drain bathtubs, kiddie pools or other items that contain water when not in use.
Teach children that swimming in open water like lakes or the ocean is different from swimming in a pool. They need to be aware of things like uneven surfaces, currents, undertow and how weather changes can affect the water.
Here are more tips to help families with water safety:
Before every water-related excursion, take five minutes to huddle with your family, making sure everyone’s on the same page about how to avoid accidents and what to do in an emergency.
Discuss with children the importance of never swimming without an adult present and how they should immediately come to you if anyone gets hurt. It’s never too early to start talking about things everyone can do to ensure your family has a great time while staying safe.
Children should always wear a life jacket that fits snugly and is approved by the U.S. Coast Guard on boats, around open bodies of water or when participating in water sports or recreation
Constant supervision is the foundation of water safety. There’s no substitute for the attention of a parent, trusted adult, family member or friend. And always check to see if there’s a lifeguard on duty provide an extra set of eyes.
When traveling with children, it’s best to bring a spouse, partner or friend for additional help as an unofficial lifeguard or “water watcher.” Before every swim session, discuss who will be the designated person responsible and how that person should avoid any of the following distractions:
° Drinking alcohol
° Scrolling on social media
° Listening to music with headphones
While the water watcher is solely responsible for supervision, every adult should keep their eyes on the children to ensure safety. It’s vital to keep water safety in mind so everyone in the family can enjoy fun in the sun and have the best summer ever!
About the Author
Tiffany Huffman, FNP-C, specializes in family medicine and has been working in the medical field for nearly 20 years. She earned her nursing degree from Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, Kansas. Freeman Carl Junction Family Medicine specializes in high-quality family care. Call our office at 417.347.8656 for an appointment or visit freemanhealth.com/CJFamilyMedicine.