Summer is an almost magical time of year for kids. The warm weather means endless hours of playing outside in the sun, swimming in the back yard pool and taking trips to the beach with friends and family. Although many children love to spend their days swimming and splashing in the pool or at the beach, water safety is always on the minds of every parent, with good reason. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Safety 1 in 5 people who drown every year are under the age of 14. For every child who loses their life, another five are injured enough to require emergency department care.
Safe Kids reports that drowning is the leading cause of death for children 1-4 years of age among preventable injuries, the second leading cause of death for children 5-14 years of age, and the third leading cause for children under 1 and older teens ages 15-17. Because drowning is a true threat it's important to know how to recognize if someone is drowning and what to do if someone around you is drowning.
Lisa Zarda, executive director with the U.S. Swim School Association (USSSA), explained to TODAY that drowning doesn't look at all like what many people think it looks like. "It is not loud and noisy. It is actually very quiet and it can happen very quickly,” she explained. “It’s one of the unfortunate misnomers from TV and movies.” In fact, if a person is struggling in the water or drowning they are often silent, struggling more to breathe and stay afloat and not splashing or screaming.
According to TODAY, warning signs of a person who may be drowning including seeing their mouth at water level and have it alternate being above and below the surface, having their head tilted back as they try to float in the water and glassy or closed eyes. They also list a number of ways you can help someone who may be drowning based on guidelines provided by the USSSA.
The USSSA recommends never jumping in the water to rescue someone who is drowning as they can unintentionally pull their rescuers down with them. It's recommended to try to throw something at the person they can grab on to, like a towel or rope or even pool noodle to help them.
Calling 911 or for other assistance is crucial if you think someone is drowning. It is also recommended to alert lifeguards as soon as possible if they are in the proximity as they are trained to deal with this exact situation.
If you do approach someone who is drowning the USSSA recommends approaching them from behind as often when someone is panicked they may grab on to the person they see approaching them which can result in both parties going under.
If you are attempting to help someone who is drowning in the water it's recommended to wear a life jacket to help prevent being pulled under.
Just because someone is rescued from the water doesn't mean they are out of danger. Delayed drowning is a real risk and you should be aware of what to watch for in the hours after a water accident.
Water safety is important year round but even more crucial during the summer months when people are exposed to water so much more. Children and adults should be encouraged to take swimming lessons, parents and caregivers should take a CPR course and always be vigilant when around open water.