There’s nothing quite like jumping into a nice, cool pool or lake to start off the hot summer. Adults and kids alike love to play in the water, but a fun day of swimming can turn deadly fast if someone gets overwhelmed in the water.
May is National Water Safety Month, and it is a great time to brush up on ways to prevent drowning before all the pools open for the summer. Drowning is the second leading cause of death for children under 14 in Utah, and it can happen in pools, bathtubs and even small amounts of water. Here are five things to know about drowning and how to prevent it.
Water at any depth is dangerous
Children can drown in even very shallow water. Even one inch of water can be dangerous for an infant. Always empty pools, buckets, and coolers after using them and take steps to protect other water around your home. If you have a large pool, keep it secured and inaccessible to small children. Install safety locks on toilets and make sure young children cannot get into the washing machine. Top-heavy babies and toddlers can have a hard time getting themselves back upright if they fall, so seemingly ordinary household items can be dangerous if they have water in them.
Don’t leave kids unattended with water
A drowning accident can happen in an instant. Even if you think you are only stepping away for a moment, that can be the difference between life or death for a child in the water. It takes only a few seconds for a child to slip under the water, and they can lose consciousness in two minutes. In four to six minutes under the water, a child can sustain life-altering brain damage. Do not leave babies and toddlers alone in the tub, even with an older sibling. When playing in the pool or at the lake, assign an adult to watch the children and take turns being the kid watcher. When several adults are present, it is easy to lose track of kids and think someone else is watching them.
Drowning doesn’t always happen in water
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Although the majority of drowning incidents happen in the water, a person can drown on dry land as well. Secondary drowning, or dry drowning, occurs when water gets into the lungs, but the water doesn’t cause drowning right away. The water can cause swelling in the lungs and a decrease in oxygen. The symptoms may not appear for up to 72 hours, and without treatment can be fatal. It is important to watch someone who has had a near-drowning or who may have gotten water in their lungs while diving into a pool, going on a water slide or getting splashed. Watch for lethargy, trouble breathing or chest pains and get emergency treatment.
Stay safe when playing in water
Always use the appropriate safety gear when you going boating or swimming. When you head out on the water, make sure there is a life jacket for every person on board. Wear a life jacket at all times in case anyone gets thrown in the water. Use life jackets or flotation devices for small children when they are swimming, but don’t rely on them. Never take your eyes off a child in the water, even if they are using floaties or a life jacket. Do not go diving in unfamiliar water, and swim in areas where there is a lifeguard. Stay away from fast-moving streams and rivers, especially when the spring runoff from the mountains is high.
For seniors, it’s also important to monitor the water temperature. “A brisk dip in a mountain lake or a chilly pool causes the heart to work harder to pump blood to organs, and that can raise the heart rate to concerning levels,” said Terry Powell, plant manager at Desert Terrace Healthcare Center. “We urge people to tell someone if they begin to feel lightheaded as that can be a sign of an irregular pulse.”
Educate yourself and your children
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Put your children in swimming lessons to help them be confident and safe in the water. Make sure you are a strong swimmer yourself so you can help someone who is having trouble in the water. It may not be obvious that a person is drowning. Learn and watch for the signs that somebody is drowning so you can get them help. Learn CPR for adults and for children and stay up-to-date on the certification. Being educated is not a substitute for being careful, but it can save lives in emergency situations.
Water can be fun for the whole family, but it can also be deadly in the blink of an eye. Take the proper safety precautions and always watch small children around water.
This article was originally published in the Daily Herald.