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Drowning Doesn't Look Like What You See in the Movies
Lisa Zarda, usswimschools.org/
With all the demands on parents, it is easy to overlook important facts around the risks of drowning. Drowning is the number one cause of accidental death for children under four and it is the second leading cause of accidental death for children under 14. While this information is scary, you can educate yourself to help prevent a tragedy.
First, a few things to understand about drowning:
- Drowning is silent, it is NOT like the movies with splashing and screaming.
- It can happen in an instant. One minute your child is by your side and the next moment they are under water. Nine out of ten drowning deaths happen when a caregiver is supervising but not paying attention. And 77 percent of those involved in a home drowning accident had been missing for no more than five minutes when found in the swimming pool.
- Drowning happens when you least expect it. 70 percent of drowning victims weren’t expected to be in or near the pool at that time.
- Drowning does not discriminate. A drowning can happen to anyone, no matter your socioeconomic status or swimming ability.
The good news is, there are steps parents can take to better safeguard their families from drowning:
- Formal swim lessons between the ages of one and four have been shown to reduce the risk of drowning by 88%. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends swim lessons for all children starting as early as one year of age.
- Undistracted adult supervision when kids are around or near water is critical. Assign an adult to be a “water watcher” when children are in and around water. At all times the water watcher should be within arms length of non-swimmers.
- Caregivers should know how to swim and know CPR with rescue breathing. CPR started quickly on drowning victims has shown to improve chances of survival as rescue personnel take time to arrive and access the scene.
- Blow rafts, rings, water wings and floats are NOT safety devices. They have no safety requirements and can fail. In fact, they can lead parents and kids to have a false sense of security which can actually increase drowning risk.
- Pools should have complete four-sided isolation fencing with a self-locking gate. Fencing could prevent 50 – 90% of child related drowning events. And don’t leave any toys in the pool area as it can attract the attention of a wandering, curious child.
- Keep simple but effective lifeguard equipment poolside such as life rings, telescoping poles, shepherd’s crooks or lines with buoys. Some are as inexpensive as $10 and can prevent a rescuer from getting pulled under creating a double drowning.
- Wear a US Coast Guard-approved life jacket around open water even if you know how to swim. An injury while swimming in open water could prevent you from being able to swim to safety.
Enjoyment of the water doesn’t have to be scary. There are many great benefits to swimming, including physical health and development, as well as cognitive benefits for our brains and minds. Swimming offers the opportunity to exercise and use all of the parts of the body. Young children learning to swim have demonstrated increased cognitive skills compared to their peers. Swimming is an extremely low-impact activity, so its benefits are not just for the young. Swimmers at any age can enjoy stress release and improved quality of sleep. Swimming offers time away from screens and a chance to connect with family and friends, allowing for the development of social skills and meaningful relationships.
There is a lot swimming has to offer each of us. With a little knowledge and planning, you and your family can appreciate a lifetime enjoyment of swimming and water activities.
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