Temperatures are getting warmer, and the water looks inviting, so getting a bit of cool relief seems like a great idea. Children who don’t know how to swim often don’t comprehend the danger of drowning, and adults who can’t swim may intend to remain in shallow water. But it’s best not to take a chance, and whatever your age (or children’s ages), if you plan to visit a swimming pool, lake, river or other body of water, swim lessons are always a good idea. It’s a skill that will help keep children safe and that adults can enjoy for a lifetime, and as we approach the summer, it’s also a great time to remember the importance of learning to swim.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 3,536 people died in unintentional drownings from 2005-2014 (the most recent dates for drowning statistics available from the CDC), and that doesn’t include another 332 people who died in boating-related drownings.
“About one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger,” the CDC states. “For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries.”
The CDC further notes that 50 percent of water-related injuries require hospitalization beyond emergency room treatment, and adds that these nonfatal injuries can result in varying degrees of brain damage that can sometimes be permanent.
Simply put, it’s not worth the risk to suffer drowning or severe injury. You could just stay away from the water, of course, but swimming lessons are a better solution that won’t deprive you of the fun and exercise you or your loved ones can experience.
Recreational swimming and water activities enrich our lives,” states an American Red Cross publication. “Family and neighborhood ties are strengthened by weekends at the beach, vacations by mountain lakes, rides on the family boat, pool parties and just ‘having the neighborhood kids over to use the pool.’”
While water activities are fun, the Red Cross reminds that they can also be dangerous. “Drowning is a global public health problem,” the publication notes, adding that the number of water-related injuries and drowning deaths in the United States is “shockingly high,” but adding that the solution is remarkably simple – awareness of the danger and education, especially swimming lessons.
Learning how to swim saves lives, and the American Red Cross encourages all families to enroll in Learn-to-Swim programs by contacting your local pool,” said Suzy DeFrancis, chief public affairs officer for the Red Cross. These lessons are relatively inexpensive – and certainly cost less than a hospital bill.
The Red Cross conducted a survey which found that almost two-thirds of families with small children plan to swim during the summer in areas without life guards and that many people aren’t sure how to respond to a water-related emergency. The survey also found that 49 percent of those responding say they have had an experience in which they believed they might drown, and 41 percent say they know someone else who has almost drowned.
In addition to swim lessons, the Red Cross urges that people take the following actions:
- Constantly watch children any time they are near water. In the time it takes to text, talk with someone or read a portion of a book, disaster can strike.
- Secure areas, such as pools, with a fence.
- Never leave a child unattended near water, do not entrust their safety to another child, and teach children to always ask for permission before going near water.
- If a child is missing, check the water first. Every second counts.
A variety of swim lessons are available for parents and children to either enjoy together, for children themselves or for just adults. You can search the Internet for swim lessons offered in your area.
Other Red Cross recommendations include:
- Swim in areas supervised by a life guard.
- Always swim with a buddy – never alone.
- Swim only in designated areas.
- Young children and inexperienced swimmers should wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
- Designate a responsible adult to watch over children whenever you are near water.
- Be aware of when you or others with you become tired, cold, hot, or too far from safety, and get out of the water as soon as possible.
- Make specific rules about how deep you or others will go in the water or how long you will stay based on experience and ability.
- Make sure swimmers are away from potential hazards such as deep and shallow areas, currents, obstructions, and are aware of exits and entries.
- Identify potential water hazards and keep children away from them.
- Enter water feet first – especially for the first time to determine depth.
- Do not mix alcohol with water activities. Alcohol impairs judgment, balance, and coordination and reduces your body’s ability to regulate temperatures.
- Be very cautious near moving water.
- Keep a phone handy nearby for whatever emergency may arise.
For information on where to find swimming lessons for you or your child, check with your local Red Cross office or your local YMCA.