June 26, 2017

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Preventing Drowning Incidents in Childhood and Teen Years

Water Safety 101Drowning. It’s the second-leading cause of injury-related death in children in the United States.

I know what you’re thinking. It would never happen to my child. He knows how to swim, and besides, he never swims without supervision or someone else present. But in many drowning accidents, there is an adult present.  Last year, I was at a hotel pool when a young boy almost drowned. Luckily, we were able to save him. But it goes to show that even when adults are present that accidents still happen.

And pools aren’t the only place to worry about drowning incidents. Nearly half of the drowning deaths in those under 20-years-old occur in freshwaters like lakes, creeks, rivers and ponds. In the Land of 10,000 lakes, this is an alarming statistic. Though children up to four years are the most likely to die of drowning, there is a peak in drowning incidents during adolescence. Teen males are 10 times more likely to drown than teen females.

Fortunately, it’s preventable. Consider these water safety tips for all ages from the Minnesota Department of Health:

  1. Never leave children alone in or near water of any kind. Supervision is vital in preventing water-related injuries and drowning; it only takes seconds for a child to slip silently under the water. When watching pre-school age children, supervisors should be close enough to reach the children swimming at all times
  2. Pay attention. Parents need to make sure there is always a responsible party who knows how to swim watching attentively—without distractions—when children are in or around the water.
  3. Swimming skills help people of all ages around water. Taking formal swimming lessons reduces the risk of drowning, particularly among those aged one to four. However, even when children have had swimming lessons, constant, careful supervision in or around water is still very important.
  4. Use proper safety devices. Wear a life jacket. Water toys are not proper safety devices and will not keep swimmers safe—especially those who don’t know how to swim. Even experienced swimmers should wear a life jacket, particularly when boating or participating in water sports.
  5. Use the buddy system. Even experienced swimmers should always swim with someone else and only swim in designated swimming areas—preferably where a lifeguard is present. Don’t let your children swim without an adult present.
  6. Avoid alcohol. Alcohol and water activities don’t mix. Avoid drinking alcohol before and during swimming, boating and water-skiing even if you’re just supervising others.
  7. Know the water. It’s important to know the water where you or your children will be swimming. Cold water can kill—even during the summer—and areas with high-running water can be extremely dangerous. Even calm rivers can hide swift currents, rocks and tree branches. Never dive or jump into unfamiliar or shallow water. Watch for dangerous waves or signs of rip currents—discolored, foamy or choppy water moving in a channel away from the shore. When in doubt, don’t get in the water.
  8. Know the weather conditions and forecast. Bad weather can cause dangerous conditions in and around water that can lead to drowning.
  9. Learn basic CPR. The more quickly CPR is administered to a drowning victim, the better their chance of survival and the outcome of the incident.

What To Do If Someone is Drowning

  • Get Help
    • Notify a lifeguard, if one is close. If not, ask someone to call 911.
  • If you are alone, follow the steps below.
    • Carefully Move the Person from the Water
    • Check for Breathing
  • Place your ear next to the person’s mouth and nose. Do you feel air on your cheek?
    • Look to see if the person’s chest is moving.
    • If the Person is Not Breathing, Check Pulse for 10 Seconds.
  • If There is No Pulse, Start CPR.
  • Repeat CPR if Person Is Still Not Breathing

Relax and fun on your summer vacation. You deserve it. But if you’re headed for the lake or even just the hotel pool, don’t forget the importance of water safety. It can save a life!

Bridey Boese, ACMC-Litchfield, Family MedicineBridey is a nurse practitioner in family medicine at ACMC-LitchfieldFamily medicine emphasizes comprehensive medical care for families as a whole and as individual members, caring for patients from birth to advanced age. They provide well child checkups and can make sure all immunizations are up to date. In addition, they also coordinate and manage patient care with other specialists when a referral is needed.