Headed to the water? Wear a swimsuit with colors that are easy to see, and remember, drowning rarely happens as you see it on TV

By Sherri Hannan
University of Kentucky

The temperature is rising, and everyone is heading to the pool, lake or beach to cool off. But did you know the color of your swimsuit plays a big part in water safety? And that drowning rarely looks like how it is represented on television and in motion pictures?

Drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 4, and the second leading cause of death for children ages 5 to 14, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Black children’s chances of drowning are more than seven times greater than white children’s.

Even if drowning doesn’t cause death, drowning injuries can cause brain damage and other serious outcomes, including long-term disability.

Experts are urging parents and caregivers to avoid putting children in blue and green swimsuits. Even in shallow water, blue and green are very difficult to see. Drowning can happen very quickly and quietly, and visibility is important when supervising kids around water. Stick with bright, neon colors for swimsuits, pool toys and floatation devices.

Remember, drowning doesn’t look like drowning. In TV and movies, a drowning person waves their hands and calls for help. In reality, drowning is silent. A drowning person may appear to be relaxed and quietly treading water. If you see someone with their head tilted back and they look like they are climbing an invisible ladder, call for help immediately.

Here are some other tips to keep kids safe in and around water this summer:

  • Use designated swimming areas and recreational areas whenever possible. Look for posted signs about open water hazards. Also look for signs that say when lifeguards will be present.
  • Avoid distractions when your child is in or around water. Drowning is often silent and can occur in minutes. Put away phones, books and magazines.
  • Choose a water watcher. When there are several adults present, alternate who is responsible for watching children in or near the water.
  • Keep your ears open as well as your eyes. If your child gets quiet, find out why.
  • Wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket when boating or participating in other water activities. Choose a life jacket that is right for your child’s weight and water activity. Weak swimmers and children who cannot swim should wear life jackets when they are in or near water.
  • Learn CPR and basic water rescue skills. It is important to know how to respond in an emergency without putting yourself at risk of drowning. Local chapters of organizations such as the Red Cross offer CPR and water safety courses.
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