Supervision, qualified instructors critical for children’s water safety

Published 12:10 am Friday, June 26, 2015

By David Crocker
Each year, around this time, I present this article as part of my column, because as warmer weather arrives, more people participate in aquatic activities like, swimming, diving, skiing, fishing, and boating. Even if they don’t actually plan to get in, many folks are close to or at least around, bodies of water like pools, lakes, ponds, rivers, creeks, and even the ocean.


I have been a water safety consultant to the United States Marine Corps, taught swimming, certified lifeguards, served as a water safety instructor for the American Red Cross and run large aquatic facilities, so the subject of water safety is an area with which I’m very familiar.

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Statistically in the United States, 50 percent of all those who drown each year never intended to get into water in the first place. Also, nearly 1,000 children drown each year. It’s absolutely crucial to learn how to keep you and your family safe in and around water. This is called “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 two 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, 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 into a pool to rescue a five year old whose mother took her eyes off of 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 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 (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 in a lake, ocean or pool. There have been many good swimmers — even lifeguards — who drowned, not trying to rescue someone, but because they became 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 all swimmers take life saving classes. Know your limits.


Swimming in lakes, rivers, or oceans is not the same as swimming in a pool, because you have to account for moving currents (even lakes have underwater currents), rocks, stumps, branches, and other underwater debris. This takes more of your energy and could easily cause you to snag a foot, hand, arm, or other body part, trapping you under water.


If you do find yourself in water unexpectedly, or if you get into trouble in water, don’t panic. If you relax your muscles, you’ll float much easier. If you tense up, you’ll tend to sink. Also, if you panic, you will run out of oxygen faster.


If you find yourself in a current, swim with the current and gradually try to make it to shore.


One other condition I would like to mention is something many have never even heard of,  “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. Even 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 dies from lack of oxygen.


Sometimes in dry drowning, the larynx goes into spasms, called 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. The victim can be saved if oxygen is administered.


Diet or exercise question? Email me at, or visit David Crocker of Landrum has been a nutritionist and master personal trainer for 28 years. He served as strength director of the Spartanburg Y.M.C.A., head strength coach for the USC Spartanburg baseball team, S.C. state champion girls gymnastic team and the Converse College equestrian team. He served as a water safety consultant to the United States Marine Corps, lead trainer to L.H. Fields modeling agency and taught four semesters at USC Union. David was also a regular guest of the Pam Stone radio show.