Swim safely this summer

Published 2:38 pm Friday, June 11, 2010

Even though the subject of this weeks column doesnt involve exercise or nutrition, it definitely has to do with ones well being.

As a WSI (water safety instructor) for the American Red Cross, I have taught, and certified lifeguards, taught water safety, as well as swimming.

Statistically, in the U.S., 50% of the people who drown each year, never intended to get in the water in the first place. Narly 1,000 children drown each year.

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Its crucial to learn how to keep you and your family safe in and around&bsp; water. We call this water proofing. Kids need constant supervision. Young children can drown in just two inches of water.

This means that extreme care should be taken not just in swimming pools, but also in bath tubs, sinks, wading pools, fountains, toilets, buckets, even ditches filled with rain water. Make no mistake! Drowning can occur very quickly, so never let children out of your sight for even a few seconds.

I once had to jump off a second story balcony to rescue a five year old whos mother took her eyes off&bsp; him for just a few seconds. Make sure you teach your kids to swim early on. Even children over one year should learn. Make sure your kids are taught be qualified instructors.

All kids should be constantly supervised, no matter what their skill level. Infants and small children should have an adult within arms reach. This is called touch supervision. Make sure your kids have Coast Guard-approved flotation devices like life vests on whenever they are near water. Make sure the vest has a strap that fits down between the legs, and has a collar to keep the childs face out of the water.

All swimmers regardless of age or skill level should swim with a buddy, whether youre in a lake or a pool. There have been many good swimmers…even lifeguards who have drowned, because they got over-confident, and got into trouble in the water.

Also, remember, it only takes a teaspoon of water in the lungs to drown you. I recommend swimmers take life saving classes. Know your limits. Swimming in a lake, river, or ocean is not the same as swimming in a pool, because you have to account for the moving currents. This takes more of your energy.

If you find yourself in the water unexpectedly, or if you get in trouble in the water, dont panic. If you relax your muscles, youll float much easier. If you tense up, youll tend to sink. Also, if you panic, you will run out of air faster. If you find yourself in a current, swim with the current and gradually try to make it back to shore.

One other condition I would like to mention, is called dry drowning, a condition which occurs when a persons lungs are unable to take in oxygen, due to breathing in a very small amount of water. While the water prevents the lungs from oxygenating the blood, the heart does not slow down, so the person can still walk and talk, but then later die from lack of oxygen.

Sometimes in dry drowning, the larynx goes into spasms. This is called a laryngospasm. This also deprives the victim of oxygen. A sudden change in a persons mood, or personality, energy level, agitation, sleepiness, vomiting, involuntary defecation, or extreme lethargy may be a sign of oxygen deprivation. If any of these signs are observed get medical help immediately.

David Crocker of Landrum has served as strength director of the Spartanburg Y.M.C.A., strength coach, S.C. state champion girls gymnastic team, USC-Spartanburg baseball team, and Converse college equestrian team. He taught four semesters at USC-Union. David is also a regular guest of the Pam Stone Show.