Water safety

Published 9:33 am Monday, June 8, 2020

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By David Crocker

Diet and Exercise


Well, hot weather’s here, and so many folks will be taking to the water. Swimming, and other water related activities are excellent forms of exercise. However, during this time of Covid19, precautions should be taken when making use of pools, lakes, rivers and beaches.

The CDC encourages all staffs, patrons and swimmers to wash hands often, and while it did not suggest instructing patrons to shower before entering pools, it’s likely most pool facilities already have a “shower before entering” rule in place.

Chlorine in most pools is enough to render viruses inactive and there are no known cases of Covid19 transmission through use of pools, lakes, rivers or oceans. The CDC also recommends wearing a mask when not in the water, but DON’T wear cloth masks while in the water, as they will obstruct breathing.

While it’s important to protect yourself, and others from Covid19, it’s even more crucial to protect yourself, and family from drowning while in, on, and around water.

As a head lifeguard, and later, a water safety instructor (WSI) for the American Red Cross, I have directed, and certified lifeguards, taught water safety, swimming and had the privilege to serve as a special aquatics instructor to the United States Marine Corps. So water safety is an area I’m very familiar with.

Statistically, 50% of those who drown each year, never even intended to get in the water in the first place. Also, nearly 1,000 children drown each year in the U.S. Learning how to keep you, and your family safe in, and around water is referred to as “water proofing”.

Kids need constant supervision. Young children can drown in as little as two inches of water. That doesn’t look deep, it just looks wet. That means 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.

Make no mistake, drowning can occur very quickly, so NEVER let youngsters out of your sight for even a few seconds.

I once had to jump from a second story balcony, into a pool to rescue a five 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 just over one year should learn. Make sure your kids are taught be qualified instructors. All children need to be constantly supervised, no matter their skill level. Toddlers, and small children should always 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 not just in, but near, or around 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 their face out of the water.

All swimmers (even lifeguards) regardless of age, or skill level, should swim with a buddy, whether in a lake, river, ocean or 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 takes only a teaspoon of water in the lungs to drown you. I recommend all swimmers take lifesaving classes.

Plus, know your limits. Swimming in a pond, lake, river or ocean is not the same as swimming in a pool, because you have to account for moving currents, and yes, there are under water currents in lakes. This can use up more of your swimming energy.

Also, a river that looks calm on the surface, can have a fast under current.

If you go into water unexpectedly, or if you get in trouble in the water, don’t panic. Relax your muscles, and you’ll float much easier. If you tense up, or strain, you’ll tend to sink. Panicking can deplete oxygen levels very quickly. If you do find yourself in a river, swim with, not against the current, on your back with your feet pointed downstream. This way, your head will be protected. Your feet should be poking out of the water, so they don’t get caught on rocks, or debris. Stay calm, look downstream; when you come to calmer water, flip over and swim diagonally toward shore, with the current.

One condition I’d like to mention, is one many folks have never even heard of. “Dry drowning”. Dry drowning occurs when an individual’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 individual can still walk, and talk, but could later die from lack of oxygen. Sometimes in dry drowning, the larynx goes into spasms. This is referred to as a laryngospasm. That 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.

Questions? Contact David at dwcrocker77@gmail.com