The importance of water safety
Published 10:37 am Tuesday, July 5, 2022
The Tryon Daily Bulletin issues this article each summer to demonstrate to everyone the importance of water safety.
Well, hot weather’s here, and so many folks will be taking to the water. Swimming and other water related activities can be great fun, and excellent forms of exercise. However, it’s absolutely crucial to protect yourself and others around you when in and around water.
As a head lifeguard, then a water safety instructor (WSI) for the American Red Cross, I have certified and directed lifeguard staffs, taught water safety, lifesaving, swimming, and even had the privilege to serve as a special aquatics instructor to the United States Marine Corps., so the matter of aquatics safety is an area I am extremely familiar with.
Globally, there are an estimated 236,000 drowning deaths each year. In fact, drowning is the 3rd leading cause of unintentional injury death, worldwide.
Statistically, 50% of those who drown each year in America never even intended to enter the water in the first place. Also, nearly 1,000 children drown every year in the United States. Keeping you and your family safe in and around water is referred to as “waterproofing.” Kids need constant supervision. Young children can drown in as little as 2 inches of water. That doesn’t look deep, it sometimes just looks wet. Extreme care should be taken not just in and around 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 kids out of your sight for even a few seconds when around water. 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 “only a few seconds.”
Make certain you teach your youngsters to swim early on. Even children just over one year old should start learning to swim. Make sure your kids are taught by qualified instructors. All children need to be constantly supervised, no matter their skill level. Toddlers and small children should always have an adult within arms reach. This is called “touch supervision.” Make sure your children are provided “Coast Guard-approved” flotation devices like life vests whenever they are not just in, but near or around water. Ensure 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.
Every swimmer (even lifeguards) regardless of age, or skill level, should always swim with a buddy, whether in a pond, lake, river, ocean, or pool. There have been many great swimmers, even lifeguards, who have drowned because they became over confident and got into trouble in the water. Also, remember, it takes only one teaspoon of water in the lungs to drown you. Did you get that? One teaspoon!
I recommend all swimmers take life saving classes. Plus, know your limits. Swimming in a pond, lake, river, or ocean is not the same as swimming in a pool, because moving currents must be accounted for, and yes, there is circulating water (rivers) under the surface of lakes. This can use up more of your swimming energy. Also, a river that looks calm on the surface may have a fast running undercurrent.
Should you go into water unexpectedly, or if you get into 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; make yourself go limp, and relax, then you’ll float. Also, panicking can deplete your oxygen levels very quickly. If you do find yourself in a river, swim with, not against, the current, and on your back with your feet pointed downstream. This way, your head and face will be protected. Your feet should be poking up and out of the water, so they don’t get caught on rocks, limbs, or debris. Stay calm, look downstream; when you come to calmer water, flip over and swim diagonally toward shore, with the current.
A specific condition I’d like to mention, is one many folks have never even heard of known as 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 an individual’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.
David Crocker is a water safety expert, nutritionist and master personal trainer. Questions? Contact David at firstname.lastname@example.org or text to 864-494-6215.