It’s finally summer, and my friends and I could not be more excited! Our favorite activity by far when the weather is nice is heading to the neighborhood pool for a swim. If you watch the news, though, you will know that if you don’t practice water safety, a day at the pool can quickly turn deadly. The same goes for natural bodies of water like rivers, ponds, lakes, and the ocean.
Not only that, tubs and spas with drains or suction outlets can be dangerous due to the potential for hair entanglement. Just a few weeks ago a Pennsylvania teen tragically drowned in her own bathtub. She apparently blacked out while taking a shower, fell down and hit her head, then her long hair clogged the drain and caused the tub to fill up, consequently drowning her. That was a terrible freak accident, but many fatal drownings can be prevented.
Whether vacationing on a beach, staying at a hotel with a pool, visiting relatives or friends who have a backyard Jacuzzi, taking a tubing trip down a river, or boating on a lake… water safety must be practiced wherever water is present! The top ten states where drowning is the leading cause of death are: Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Hawaii, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. The highest drowning rates are for children ages 1-5 AND adolescents ages 15-24. This indicates that teens and young adults often don’t think about water safety.
According to the 2016 Dangerous Waters Research Report, “For natural bodies of water we found the greatest risk occurs in older children. This likely reflects increasing independence coupled with decreased supervision. Unfortunately, the likelihood of timely rescue and resuscitation is typically lower for adolescents in this setting, leading to less favorable clinical outcomes and increased fatality.”
“More than half of the children who drowned in lakes, rivers and other natural bodies of water between 2005 and 2014 were over the age of 10. Overall, 15-17 year olds have more than twice the risk of a fatal drowning in natural water than those under 15 years, and boys ages 15-17 are five times more likely to drown in natural water than girls of the same age. Racial disparities were also most obvious in 15-17 year olds where the drowning rate for African American boys is almost two times the rate of Caucasian boys, more than 13 times the rate of African American girls and 24 times the rate of Caucasian girls.”
It’s commonly said, “the best insurance against drowning is learning to swim,” but statistics show that two-thirds of people who drown are good swimmers. Non-swimmers drown simply because some weird twist of fate suddenly puts them into the water, such as a car accident or falling out of a boat without wearing a life vest. If you don’t know how to swim very well, don’t try to rescue someone who’s drowning because they may pull you down with them. Instead, call for help and toss out a flotation device or give them something to grab onto like a tree branch, even clothing you hold on one end and have them grab the other.
Still not convinced about the dangers of drowning? Read these Disturbing Facts About Drowning.
Here are some water safety tips for teens:
- Whether you’re swimming in a backyard pool or in a natural body of water, be sure to swim with a partner every time. Never swim alone.
- What is meant to be a fun party can quickly get out of hand with rambunctious teenage energy. Before guests dive in, make sure they understand the safety expectations.
- To ensure pool safety, be sure the area is clean and free from debris that could be stepped on, tripped over, or used inappropriately. Remove unnecessary equipment (hoses, toys, etc.) from the area to free up space and eliminate temptations.
- Horseplay, pushing and jumping on others, and dangerous stunts should not be tolerated at any time.
- Don’t dive in unfamiliar areas or where you can’t see the depth of the water. Even if you plan to jump in feet first, check the water’s depth before you leap to make sure there are no hidden rocks or other hazards. Lakes or rivers can be murky and hazards may be hard to see.
- Know your limits. If you’re not a good swimmer, 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.
- Swimming in a pool is a lot different than swimming in a river, lake, or ocean, where more strength is needed to handle currents, waves, and changing conditions in the open water. There may also be other hazards such as marine life, drop-offs, and submerged objects.
- If you get caught in a rip current, don’t panic or try to fight it. Stay calm and float along until it slows down enough to swim free, or swim parallel to the shore to get out of the current, which is usually just a narrow channel of water.
- When boating, canoeing or kayaking, make sure everyone is wearing life vests and never consume alcohol when operating a boat. The Nemours Foundation says, “Alcohol is involved in numerous water-related injuries and up to half of all water-related deaths. The statistics for teenage guys are particularly scary: One half of all adolescent male drownings are tied to alcohol use.”
- Learning CPR and rescue techniques can help you save a life. A number of organizations offer free classes for both beginning and experienced swimmers and boaters. Check with your YMCA or YWCA, local hospital, fire station, Red Cross chapter, or recreation center.
There are plenty of other water safety tips for families and homeowners to keep in mind. I’ve started putting together a list of sites that I think have the best advice:
- Pool Safety Guide for Homeowners
- The Best Water Safety Products for Kids & Families: Keep Kids Safe in the Bath and Swimming Pool
- Tips for Teaching Kids with Autism to Swim and How to Find Lessons Near You
- Keeping Your Dog Safe When You Have a Pool
- Take Note of Water Safety for Older Adults
- How to Prep Your Home for a Safe, Hazard-free Summer
- Alcohol & Water Safety
- Summer Safety
Have a fun and safe summer everyone!