Summer in the Texas heat can be unbearable. As a result, most of us spend our weekends (and evenings!) in the water to cool down. While a dip in the pool, a trip to the lake, or even a drive to the beach are all great ways to beat the heat, it is important to be educated about water safety so that a relaxing afternoon poolside doesn’t turn into a nightmare at the emergency room. The CDC says “Drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States.” Therefore, water safety is not a matter to be taken lightly. Here are some tips on how to stay safe this summer for you and your family.
Little kids need the most supervision around water, since they are small and often not strong swimmers. A child should never be left alone near water. Anyone under the age of 5 or without good swimming skills should be accompanied by an adult at all times. It is interesting to note at the American Academy of Pediatrics is wary of children’s floaties because they give a false sense of security to parents and children. Floaties and pool noodles can never replace the security of a life jacket, and they should never be used in place of close supervision. It is also important to note that, while swimming lessons may help make your child more confident in/around water and improve their swimming skills, even the best swimmers can drown. Most of us can recall the story of Tate Ramsden, the college swimmer who drowned in 2015.
When going swimming with a group of people, an adult should be clearly assigned to the role of supervising water activities. Whether the members of your group rotate responsibility during the trip or you work out some other system amongst yourselves, the designated “watcher” should be sober and actively observing the members of your party in the water. He or she should not be playing cards or using their phone, even if there is a lifeguard present. Cook Children’s Medical Center recommends taking 15 minute shifts of responsibility so that everyone stays actively involved in their role.
Additionally, it is always a good idea to become CPR certified. I know when I was a nanny for the summer, becoming CPR certified was on the top of my list. Not only could is save a life in an emergency until professional help arrives, it also teaches you how to handle emergency situations appropriately. The American Red Cross teaches CPR and basic first aid as well as basic water safety, and many local fire stations also teach classes for a small fee.
Among teens and young adults, it is important to educate them on the risk alcohol and drug ingestion pose to water safety. Not only is someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol unable to be a designated “watcher” or make good decisions in an emergency, but he or she also poses a risk to themselves. The CDC says “alcohol use is involved in up to 70% of deaths associated with water recreation.” Alcohol impairs your judgement of risk and your own ability levels, which leads to risky behaviors. Additionally, an intoxicated person has reduced coordination and slower reaction times because brain processing is reduced. Most importantly, did you know that alcohol consumption reduces the effectiveness of CPR on an intoxicated person and number of physical changes (outlined on the Royal Life Saving website).
While swimming and water activities can be a fun way to have fun and stay cool this summer, it is important to follow the necessary precautions and know what to do in an emergency. By taking a little bit of time and responsibility, your fun and relaxing afternoon poolside can become a safer place for you and your crew.