With hot summer months on hand, swimming becomes a great way to relax and cool down. The high peak of swim season means it’s important to practice pool and water safety—whether at home or in public pools.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 10 deaths occur every day from unintentional drowning—two of those deaths involve children under the age of 14. Among children under the age of four, most drownings occur at home.
“There are many precautions that can be taken to ensure swimming is as safe as it is fun,” says Dr. Sara Andrabi, assistant medical director, Emergency Center, Harris Health System’s Ben Taub Hospital, and assistant professor, Emergency Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine.
General safety tips:• Swimming ability: Parents should make sure they and their children know how to swim. Formal swim lessons can reduce the risk of drowning.• Supervision: Never leave children unattended. Drowning, unlike what appears on television or in movies, happens suddenly and quietly, and sometimes even when a lifeguard is present. Designating one or more persons to watch an occupied pool can ensure everyone is accounted for at all times.• Floatation devices: Life jackets, foam noodles, inflatable pool rings and floats often give swimmers a false sense of safety. Though they add protection, floatation devices should never be a substitute for constant supervision or used in place of a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal floatation device.
Age-specific safety tips: • Infants: Infants can drown in an inch of water, so never leave them alone in the bathtub. Installing childproof devices like doorknob covers and toilet locks can keep them out of the bathroom and away from standing water that poses a safety risk. Be sure to empty any buckets or other containers of liquids as well.• Preschoolers: Don’t allow riding toys near the pool area, which may risk a child falling into the pool. A four-sided fence (at least 4 feet tall) provides a barrier around the pool, keeping young children from accessing the pool area.• School-age children: Enforce a “no roughhousing rule” and don’t let them dive in water unless it’s 9-feet deep or more.• Adolescents and adults: “Use the buddy system,” Andrabi says. “Try to swim with a partner as a safeguard. Even experienced swimmers can develop muscle cramps, become tired or have other issues that make it difficult to get out of the water.”
Safe swimming also requires balance, coordination and judgment—all skills that can be hindered by alcohol use. According to the CDC, up to 70 percent of water recreation deaths among adolescents and adults involve alcohol.
Some public pool areas require alcohol to be kept several feet away, but avoiding alcohol altogether when swimming can go a long way in ensuring water safety.
“Have fun this summer and keep safety in mind while enjoying water activities with your family and friends,” Andrabi says.
For more information and water safety tips, visit healthlibrary.harrishealth.org