With the late spring heat already reaching mid-summer levels, swimming offers a bit of cool relief that is especially welcome as temperatures rise. Before you enjoy the water, there are a few things to remember that will help keep your family, friends and others safe.
An average of more than 3,500 people in the United States drown each year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Drowning is the second leading cause of death in children ages 1-14, after automobile accidents. Those who survive near drowning experiences can suffer long-term consequences.
Although drowning can happen at any age, those most at risk, according to the CDC, are children and young adults. Children under age one most often drown in bathtubs, children 1-4 most frequently drown in swimming pools, hot tubs and spas, and older children and teens most frequently drown in lakes and rivers. Almost 80 percent of drowning victims are male, and the drowning rate of African-Americans is much higher than for white children (10 times higher for the 11-12 age group). For adolescents and adults, the CDC reports that alcohol use is a significant factor, playing a role in almost 70 percent of water recreation deaths.
Whether you are planning to swim at the pool, lake or the ocean, here are some safety tips from the American Red Cross:
- For maximum safety, swim in areas supervised by lifeguards.
- Do not swim alone.
- Do not leave a child unattended near water, even for a few seconds, and make sure an adult is watching the child, not another child.
- Teach children to ask for permission before going near water.
- Children and inexperienced swimmers should wear U.S. Coast Guard approved lifejackets.
- Swimming lessons are recommended to help increase safety and enjoyment during water recreation
- Those with swimming pools should secure them with barriers to prevent accidental drowning.
- If you have a child in or near the water, do not allow yourself to become distracted by talking to others, reading, texting or checking your phone. Drownings can happen quickly.
- If your child is missing, check the water first. Every second counts.
- When you are planning to swim, take safety equipment such as lifejackets, throwable preservers and a first aid kit, and keep a cell phone nearby in case of emergencies.
- While safety in the water is crucial, do not forget to wear sunscreen with a protection factor of 15 or higher to protect your skin.
For those who are planning to swim in a natural setting rather than a swimming pool, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department offers some additional advice. Be aware of your environment and be cautious. Lakes, rivers and streams may have sudden drop-offs, changes in the surface and unseen hazards such as limbs or rocks. You should also swim only in designated areas, and pay close attention to “No Swimming” signs.
Those swimming at the ocean, lake or river should also be aware of currents under the water’s surface. TPWD notes that while the water may appear calm on the surface, underwater currents may be more turbulent, leading to danger. Those who are caught in a current should swim with it, rather than fighting against the current, until conditions allow the swimmer to reach safety.
Rivers pose the challenge of changing conditions, which can occur rapidly. The weather may be calm in one area, but stormy upstream causing the water to rise rapidly. TPWD advises that flash flooding can happen in an instant. If the water begins to rise rapidly or starts to turn muddy or changes, you should get out of the water immediately.
Those who encounter any emergency situation that endangers someone’s life should not hesitate to call 9-1-1 for help.
More information on swimming safety can be found here.