• By Micah Dorfner

Swimming safety key to a great outdoor experience

July 20, 2018

an adult woman, perhaps the mother with a baby and a little girl smiling and standing in the water of a swimming pool

With summer well underway, many people are enjoying the sunny, warm days. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 10 people die from drowning every day. Of these, two are children age 14 or younger, and drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the U.S.

“Anyone can have a water-related accident, even people who know how to swim,” says Dr. Christopher Tookey, a Mayo Clinic Health System family medicine physician. “Always wear a life jacket, jump in feet first and stay in designated swimming areas. Even strong swimmers can find themselves in trouble with a fast current or if they become incapacitated.”

Dr. Tookey recommends a number of ways to reduce the risk of drowning in any swimming environment:

  • Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Dr. Tookey says that parents and child care providers should know CPR.

  • Supervise.

Never leave children unsupervised near a pool, hot tub or natural body of water. Children under age 4 should be supervised at arm’s length, even if they can swim. Don’t rely on air-filled or foam toys, such as water wings, noodles or inner tubes, to keep children safe.

  • Teach children to swim.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most children age 4 and older can learn to swim. Children ages 1 to 4 might be able to learn depending on their physical and emotional development. However, swimming lessons don’t necessarily prevent drowning and aren’t substitutes for adult supervision, according to Dr. Tookey.

  • Avoid alcohol.

Don’t drink alcohol when you’re boating, swimming or supervising children who are swimming.

“While there are a number of risks that apply to any swimming environment, natural bodies of water bring about their own risks,” adds Dr. Tookey. “Swimming conditions can be unpredictable in ponds, lakes, rivers and oceans. Water depth can change rapidly, as can water temperature, currents and the weather. Murky water may conceal hazards.”

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