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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

Keeping Kids Safe in the Water

Jul 23, 2012 12:00AM

Kids love nothing better than cooling off in the water on a hot summer day. But refreshing fun can quickly turn to disaster if safety precautions aren’t followed.

According to a Centers for Disease Control report released in May 2012, 10 people die everyday from unintentional drowning and it’s the fifth among the leading cause of unintentional injury death in the US. Sadly, children account for one in five people who die from drowning and they have the highest drowning rate with most occurring in home swimming pools.

Drowning is the second highest cause of death among children 1–4 years old behind congenital anomalies (birth defects). Among those 1–14 years old, fatal drowning remains the second-leading cause of unintentional death behind motor vehicle crashes.

So, with all the information available on water safety, why do so many children continue to perish in daily drowning accidents?  The CDC reports a combination of factors including:

Lack of Swimming Ability: Many adults and children report that they can’t swim. Research has shown that swimming lessons reduces drowning risk among children 1–4 years old.

Lack of Barriers: Pool fences prevent children from gaining access to the water and reduces drowning risk by 83 percent.

Lack of Supervision: Drowning happens in minutes anywhere with water that is more than an inch or two deep — this includes pools, bathtubs, buckets, streams, rivers, oceans and lakes.

Failure to Wear Life Jackets: In 2010 the US Coast Guard reported that 72 percent of boating deaths were caused by drowning and 88 percent of victims were not wearing a life jacket.

Seizure Disorders: For persons with this disorder, drowning in the bathtub is the most common cause of unintentional death.

Supervision: The highest priority should be to supervise children closely when they are in or around water. And those in charge of supervision should be close enough to reach the child at all times (within arms reach) and should not be engaged in other activities while “on duty” including reading, playing cards, talking on the phone or mowing the lawn.

Learn to Swim: Formal lessons can protect young children, but even if they are competent swimmer children should always be supervised around water. If you are supervising children in the water it’s important that you know how to swim in case a water rescue is necessary.

Learn CPR: In the time it takes paramedics to arrive, your CPR skills could save someone’s life.

Air-Filled or Foam Toys are not Safety Devices: Water wings, noodles and inner-tubes do not function as life-jackets. They are not designed to keep swimmers safe.

Don’t Allow Swimmers to Play Dangerous Games: Hyperventilating before swimming underwater or trying to hold your breath for long periods of time can cause a person to black out (sometimes called “shallow water blackout”) and drown.

Stay out of the water during bad weather: Strong winds and thunderstorms with lightning strikes are dangerous.