Summer and water recreation offer fun and risk at the same time; prevention is the key to decrease the risk

One of the best parts of summer is splashing in a pool, playing in the back yard sprinkler or swimming in a lake or stream, but recreational water activity always comes with a risk of drowning.

It’s important not to lose sight of this risk as you strive to keep your children and adolescents safe, writes Susan Pollack, director of the Pediatric and Adolescent Injury Prevention Program at the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center at the University of Kentucky.

“Every year in Kentucky, an average of 14 children die by drowning. About half the drowning deaths occur among children ages 1 to 4,” Pollack writes in the Lexington Herald-Leader. “From 2009-11, 80 percent of childhood drowning deaths occurred at the child’s residence or someone else’s home. A quarter of drowning deaths occurred among adolescents, mostly while swimming, boating or fishing on lakes and rivers.”

Prevention requires constant supervision of toddlers and children around all types of water. This not only includes the obvious such as pools, swift-flowing creeks and large bodies of water, but also bath-tubs, car-washing buckets and ornamental ponds, Pollack says. Toddlers can fall in and drown even in just a few inches of standing water in a bucket. It is also important to empty baby pools immediately after use.

Drowning can happen “swiftly and silently,” Pollack writes. This requires a responsible adult to supervise children at all times, even if lifeguards are present. And if a child can’t swim, this adult should be within arms-reach. Supervision is needed even if the child is wearing an appropriately sized Coast Guard-approved life vest. Floaties and water-wings are not sufficient life-saving devices.

It is also important to create barriers to water sources. This can be accomplished by putting a four-sided, 4-foot-high fence with a self-closing gate around backyard pools or removing the ladder from above-ground pools that are not fenced.

While teaching children to swim does not replace supervision, it is an important life-saving skill children should learn, Pollack writes. The YMCA, Red Cross and university swim programs all offer lessons.

Adolescents should be reminded to never swim without a buddy and that alcohol and boating never mix, Pollack says. They should also be reminded of the dangers of swimming while fatigued and the importance of wearing a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket when boating. (Read more)

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