Water safety important part of summer well-being

Published 10:11 am Friday, June 17, 2011

Even though the subject of this week’s column doesn’t involve exercise or nutrition, it definitely has to do with one’s well-being.

As a WSI (water safety instructor) for the American Red Cross, I have certified lifeguards, taught water safety to Marines, taught swimming and run large pool facility, so the subject of water safety is an area with which I’m very familiar.

Statistically, in the United States, 50 percent of all those who drown each year never intended to get in the water in the first place. Also, nearly 1,000 children drown each year.

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It’s absolutely crucial to learn how to keep yourself and your family safe in and around water. We call this “water proofing.” Children need constant supervision. Some kids have no fear of water, but also have no breath control. Did you know young children can drown in just 2 inches of water?

This means that extreme care should be taken not just in swimming pools, but also in bathtubs, sinks, wading pools, fountains, toilets, buckets and even ditches filled with rainwater.

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 5-year-old whose mother took her eyes off him for just a few seconds.

Make sure you teach your kids to swim early on.

Even children more than 1 year old should learn. Make sure your kids are taught by qualified instructors. All kids should be constantly supervised, no matter what their skill level. Infants and small children should have an adult within arm’s 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 child’s head up, and his face out of the water.

All swimmers, regardless of age or skill level, should swim with a buddy, whether you’re in a lake or a pool. There have been many good swimmers – even lifeguards – who have drowned, because they became overconfident, 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 moving currents. This takes more of your energy.

If you do find yourself in the water unexpectedly, or if you get in trouble in the water, don’t panic. If you relax your muscles, you’ll float much more easily. If you tense up, you’ll 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 something some people have never even heard of before. It’s called “dry drowning.”

Dry drowning occurs when a person’s 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 person’s 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.

Diet or exercise question? Email me at dwcrocker77@gmail.com, or visit fitness4yourlife.org.

David Crocker of Landrum has been a nutritionist for 24 years. He served as strength director of the Spartanburg Y.M.C.A., head strength coach S.C. State champion girls gymnastic team, USC-Spartanburg baseball team, Converse college equestrian team, Lead trainer L.H. Fields modeling agency, taught four semesters at USC-Union. Crocker was also a regular guest of the Pam Stone radio show.