When the weather turns hot many people head for water. It’s a good way to beat the heat. Yet, because of all the activity going on, people can forget about water safety.
Playing in and around water comes with risks. Every day, about 10 people die from unintentional drowning. Of these, two are children age 14 and younger. For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency care for nonfatal submersion injuries. More than half of drowning victims require further care compared to a 6 percent hospitalization rate for unintentional injuries.
These nonfatal drowning injuries can cause severe brain damage that may result in long-term memory problems, learning disabilities and permanent loss of brain function, according to a 2005 to 2009 drowning study conducted by O. C. Laosee, J. Gilchrist, and R. Rudd. Drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional death in the United States, the study said.
However, most water-related accidents can be avoided. Learning how to swim is essential.
“Buddy up!” Always swim with a partner, whether in a backyard pool or lake. Even experienced swimmers can become tired or get muscle cramps. When people swim together they can help each other or go for help in case of an emergency.
Get skilled. Learn life-saving skills, such as CPR and rescue techniques, which can save a life.
Know your limits. Swimmers often want to stay in the water as long as possible. Each person should know their limits. Those who aren’t good swimmers or are just learning should avoid deep water and swimming with skilled swimmers.
Swim in only safe areas. Swim in places supervised by lifeguards who are trained in rescue techniques. Swimming in ocean currents or rip currents or where sudden storms or other hidden dangers arise requires greater strength and energy. When planning to swim in an open body of water, first take swimming lessons that provide tips on handling unexpected hazards.
Be careful about diving. Diving injuries can cause permanent spinal cord damage, paralysis and sometimes even death. Dive only in areas known to be safe such as the deep end of a supervised pool. If an area is posted with “No Diving” or “No Swimming” signs, swimmers should heed them.
Watch the sun. Sun reflecting off water or sand can intensify burning rays. Apply sunscreen frequently and cover up most of the time. Wear a hat, UV protection, sunglasses and protective clothing.
Drink plenty of fluids. Keep up with fluids — particularly water — to prevent dehydration. Dizziness, feeling lightheaded, or nausea can be signs of dehydration and head-related illness.
Getting too cool. Staying in very cool water for long periods can lower body temperature. Body temperature drops more quickly in water than on land. While swimming, the body is using energy and losing heat faster than when keeping still.
Alcohol and water never mix. Alcohol is involved in numerous water-related injuries and up to half of all water-related deaths. One half of all adolescent male drownings are tied to alcohol use.
At the water park. Swimmers should know their skill level. They should read and obey warnings and other signs. Those who don’t know how to swim should wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket when necessary, and ensure there is lifeguard supervision. To avoid injury, do slide runs feet first.
Boating safety. Make sure the captain or person handling the boat is experienced and competent. The Coast Guard also warns about boater’s fatigue, which means the wind, noise, heat and vibration of the boat combine to wear a person down while on the water.
Weather. Ensure weather conditions are safe. Local radio and TV, and the Internet can provide updated forecasts.
Personal flotation devices. Everyone on board should wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket no matter the boat size. The state may also require boaters to wear an approved life jacket for water skiing and other on-water activities.
Stay in touch. Before going out on a boat, let somebody on land know where the boat is going and how long it will be out.
Be alert, informed. Keep a radio on board to check weather reports. In the event of a storm warning, get off the water as quickly as possible.
Jet skis. If using jet skis or personal watercraft, follow the same rules as for boating.
Swimming lessons available through:
· American Red Cross at 2725 E. Camelback Road in Phoenix, (602) 336-6490
· YMCA at 2919 N. Litchfield Road in Goodyear, (623) 935-5193
· Aqua-Tots at 21505 N. 78th Avenue in Peoria, (623) 376-6554