Question of the Week

July 7, 2003

"Lazy days in the sun at the lake or by the pool capture the essence of summer. Water beckons to toddlers, teens and adults alike inviting us to splash, swim, boat or fish. Carefree summer days can turn to tragedy in an instant, however, when water shows its darker side, and loved ones, most often children, drown. Each year about 4,000 American families suffer a loss from drowning accidents that, in hindsight, might have beenprevented."

Most people look to the water for a fun way to cool off in the summer. Who wants to be paranoid or constantly be thinking about all the bad things that could happen? Still, it is hard to ignore.

"People drown by falling overboard, over-exerting themselves swimming or diving into unsafe waters. Some victims can't swim, but many of them can."

"Drowning rates are highest mainly for children under 5 years of age and persons 15-24 years of age. How children drown tends to vary by age. For example, children under age one most often drown in bathtubs, buckets, and toilets. Children 1-4 most often drown in swimming pools, hot tubs, and spas. Children aged 5-14 typically drown in swimming pools and open water, such as lakes and rivers. Males: In 1997, drowning rates were at least three times greater for males than for females for almost every age group.... alcohol use can increase the risk of drowning. Alcohol use was involved in 25-50% of adolescent and adult deaths associated with water recreation. Alcohol is a major contributing factor in nearly half of all drownings among adolescent boys."

"...many people are not fully aware of certain risk factors that contribute to drowning. For example, adults often expect small children to splash and show obvious signs of distress when they are having trouble in the water. However, drowning children rarely are able to call for help or wave their arms, and thus usually drown silently."

"Swimming lessons are recommended for school-age children who should learn how to swim, tread water, float on their back and to swim with a current. Again parents should recognize that being able to swim doesn‚t make a child drownproof. Many drowning victims are capable swimmers who get into trouble in the water."

So, what can you do to help prevent these tragedies?

"If you're not a good swimmer or you're just learning to swim, 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. That can be hard, especially when your friends are challenging you - but it's a pretty sure bet they'd rather have you safe and alive. If you are a good swimmer and have had lessons, keep an eye on friends who aren't as comfortable or as skilled as you are. If it seems like they (or you) are getting tired or a little uneasy, suggest that you take a break from swimming for a while."

Okay, so you're not a baby, or even a little kid, and you're not a parent, so what do you need to know about water safety in the home?... Do you ever babysit? Are you ever around younger siblings, relatives, or neighbors?

"It is important to remember that a child can drown in any water deep enough to cover their nose and mouth. That could be as little as little as a few inches of water in a bathtub or a bucket in your home. Parents should not trust any bathtub aids that help their child sit up right in the tub to keep him or her safe�this device should not replace parental supervision. Parents should not leave their toddler or baby alone in the tub for even a moment. Additionally, a babysitter should only bath a child if they have been taught to do so by the child's parents and the parents have given them approval to bathe the child."

A person can learn to swim, be careful, even learn CPR. You don't want to be paranoid, and you want to have fun with your friends. You don't want to bring down the party by bringing up what might go wrong. So when someone offers you the opportunity to do something you're not comfortable doing, sometimes it's hard to know what to say. Knowing the facts, you can always say that you just don't want to be another statistic.

Question of the Week:
What situations might come up with you and your friends? How can you respond without spoiling the fun? How can you avoid potentially problematic situations that might arise with children in your care?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

[email protected]
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

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