July 7, 2003
"Lazy days in the sun at the lake or by the pool capture the
essence of summer. Water beckons to toddlers, teens and adults alike
inviting us to splash, swim, boat or fish. Carefree summer days can
turn to tragedy in an instant, however, when water shows its darker
side, and loved ones, most often children, drown. Each year about
4,000 American families suffer a loss from drowning accidents that,
in hindsight, might have beenprevented."
Most people look to the water
for a fun way to cool off in the summer. Who wants to be paranoid
or constantly be thinking about all the bad things that could happen?
Still, it is hard to ignore.
"People drown by falling
overboard, over-exerting themselves swimming or diving into unsafe
waters. Some victims can't swim, but many of them can."
"Drowning rates are
highest mainly for children under 5 years of age and persons 15-24
years of age. How children drown tends to vary by age. For example,
children under age one most often drown in bathtubs, buckets, and
toilets. Children 1-4 most often drown in swimming pools, hot tubs,
and spas. Children aged 5-14 typically drown in swimming pools and
open water, such as lakes and rivers. Males: In 1997, drowning rates
were at least three times greater for males than for females for almost
every age group.... alcohol use can increase the risk of drowning.
Alcohol use was involved in 25-50% of adolescent and adult deaths
associated with water recreation. Alcohol is a major contributing
factor in nearly half of all drownings among adolescent boys."
"...many people are
not fully aware of certain risk factors that contribute to drowning.
For example, adults often expect small children to splash and show
obvious signs of distress when they are having trouble in the water.
However, drowning children rarely are able to call for help or wave
their arms, and thus usually drown silently."
"Swimming lessons are
recommended for school-age children who should learn how to swim,
tread water, float on their back and to swim with a current. Again
parents should recognize that being able to swim doesnt make
a child drownproof. Many drowning victims are capable swimmers who
get into trouble in the water."
So, what can you do to help
prevent these tragedies?
"If you're not a good
swimmer or you're just learning to swim, don't go in water that's
so deep you can't touch the bottom and don't try to keep up with skilled
swimmers. That can be hard, especially when your friends are challenging
you - but it's a pretty sure bet they'd rather have you safe and alive.
If you are a good swimmer and have had lessons, keep an eye on friends
who aren't as comfortable or as skilled as you are. If it seems like
they (or you) are getting tired or a little uneasy, suggest that you
take a break from swimming for a while."
Okay, so you're not a baby,
or even a little kid, and you're not a parent, so what do you need
to know about water safety in the home?... Do you ever babysit? Are
you ever around younger siblings, relatives, or neighbors?
"It is important to
remember that a child can drown in any water deep enough to cover
their nose and mouth. That could be as little as little as a few inches
of water in a bathtub or a bucket in your home. Parents should not
trust any bathtub aids that help their child sit up right in the tub
to keep him or her safe‹this device should not replace parental supervision.
Parents should not leave their toddler or baby alone in the tub for
even a moment. Additionally, a babysitter should only bath a child
if they have been taught to do so by the child's parents and the parents
have given them approval to bathe the child."
A person can learn to swim,
be careful, even learn CPR. You don't want to be paranoid, and you
want to have fun with your friends. You don't want to bring down the
party by bringing up what might go wrong. So when someone offers you
the opportunity to do something you're not comfortable doing, sometimes
it's hard to know what to say. Knowing the facts, you can always say
that you just don't want to be another statistic.
Question of the Week:
What situations might come up with you and your friends? How can you
respond without spoiling the fun? How can you avoid potentially problematic
situations that might arise with children in your care?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum