With temperatures soaring into the upper 90s during the summer months, many people take to the pool to beat the heat. Swimming is a great recreational sport that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Whether in a backyard swimming pool, at a community center, or in the ocean, people should learn how to keep themselves and their children safe in and around water.
Swimming can be a lot of fun, but you should be aware that drowning is a real danger. Even children who know how to swim can drown. An estimated 5,000 children ages 14 and under are hospitalized annually due to unintentional drowning-related incidents. Of that number, 15 percent die in the hospital and as many as 20 percent suffer severe, permanent neurological disabilities. According to information gathered and compiled from media reports by the Consumer Product Safety Commission of the United States, 140 children drowned during the summer of 2012. The data also shows that 137 of the drowning victims were younger than age 15, and a staggering 100 of the 137 were younger than age five.
Drowning is one of the leading causes of unintentional death among children ages one to four years. It can happen very quickly, sometimes in less than two minutes after a person’s head has gone under water, leaving precious little time for anyone to help.
To keep your summer fun tragedy-free, follow these safety tips and guidelines: 1. Never leave a child alone in or near a swimming pool, even just to answer the telephone; 2. Enclose pools or spas with four-sided fencing that is a minimum of five feet in height, having self-closing and self-latching gates. It is recommended that the side of a house not be used as any of the sides of the fenced area; 3. Ensure all wading pools are emptied and turned over immediately after use; 4. Use door and pool alarms and automatic pool covers for extra protection; 5. Teach every child how to swim. Get professional training, but never rely solely on the swimming lessons to protect a child from drowning; 6. Teach the importance of never running, pushing or jumping on others around water. Instead, enter the water slowly to make sure the temperature feels comfortable and is not too cold. If you begin shivering or start feeling your muscles cramp up, it may be because the water is too cold. Frigid water temperatures can be unsafe, so get out of cold water immediately; 7. Keep a phone and emergency numbers poolside. It could prevent the loss of valuable time should an emergency arise, and finally, 8. Please learn CPR!
It is important that you take the proper measures to ensure your safety as well as that of your child(ren) as you enjoy the pool this summer. As your local coroner, I would much rather visit you at the pool for a quick dip, not a zip. Do have a waterfall of fun!
Michael Fowler is the Dougherty County coroner.