Last year, five children drowned in Solano County and hospitals treated just as many children for near-death drowning. All but one were toddlers, the other was age 7. All were cherished family members whose loss has changed lives forever.
As the weather warms and families head for pools and waterways, the risk of drowning usually isn’t given much thought, even though the statistics are alarming. About 10 people in the United States die every day from accidental drowning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of injury death in the U.S., and it ranks No. 1 for children ages 1 to 4.
These tragedies don’t have to happen. Knowing the risks and taking safety precautions are proven ways to keep you and your children safe.
Here are the best steps to take:
Provide constant supervision: Closely watch swimmers in and around the water, even when lifeguards are on duty. Drowning happens quickly and quietly and a lifeguard may be watching over a pool full of children. Never leave toddlers playing alone near water. This rule even applies to bathtubs, where children can drown in just an inch of water.
Learn to swim: Everyone spending time around water should know the basics of swimming, which are floating and moving through water. Formal swimming lessons have been shown to decrease drowning among children and adults alike. Even children as young as ages 1 to 4 can learn to swim, although they still need constant supervision around water.
Learn cardio pulmonary resuscitation: CPR is a life-saving skill everyone who spends time around water should know. In the time it takes for lifeguards or paramedics to arrive, your CPR skills could save someone’s life.
Wear life jackets: Children should wear life jackets in and around natural bodies of water, such as lakes or the ocean, even if they know how to swim. Weak swimmers should wear life jackets in and around pools as well. Be sure to use United States Coast Guard-approved life jackets, not air-filled or foam toys such as “water wings,” “noodles,” or inner-tubes.
Use the buddy system: Regardless of your age, always swim with a buddy.
Build fences around pools: Barriers around pools help prevent young children from gaining access to a pool area without their caregivers’ awareness when they aren’t supposed to be swimming. Pool fences should completely separate the house and play area from the pool, be at least 4 feet high, and have gates with latches out of reach of children.
Avoid alcohol: Avoid drinking alcohol before or during swimming, boating or water skiing. Don’t drink alcohol while supervising children. Alcohol influences balance, coordination and judgment, and its effects are heightened by sun exposure and heat.
Know the terrain: Always enter the water feet first and be aware of drop-offs, hidden obstacles and currents in natural bodies of water.
Marilyn Ranson is a public relations specialist at NorthBay Healthcare in Fairfield, a member of the Solano Coalition for Better Health.