Diet & Exercise: Supervision, qualified instructors critical for children’s water safety

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, June 15, 2017

Even though the subject of this weeks column doesn’t involve exercise or nutrition, it definitely has to do with one’s well being. As a water safety instructor for the American Red Cross, I have taught and certified lifeguards, taught water safety, as well as swimming, so the subject of water safety is an area I’m very familiar with.

Statistically, in the United States, 50 percent of the people who drown each year, never even intended to get in the water in the first place. Also, nearly 1,000 children drown every year in the U.S.

It’s crucial to learn how to keep you and your family safe in and around water. This is called “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 and around swimming pools, but also in bathtubs, sinks, wading pools, fountains, toilets, buckets, even ditches filled with rainwater.

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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 who’s mother took her eyes off him for just a few seconds.

Make sure you teach your kids to swim early on, even children as young as 1 year old 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 not just in, but 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 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. Also, 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 do find yourself in the water unexpectedly, or if you get in 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 air faster.

If you do find yourself in a current, swim with, not against the current, then gradually try to make it back to shore, going “with” the current.

One condition I would like to mention, is one many folks have never even heard of. 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 David Crocker of Landrum has been a nutritionist and master personal trainer for 29 years.