With Memorial Day behind us, summer is just around the corner. For many, there is nothing better than soaking up the sun, relaxing and enjoying the company of our friends and family at one of the many abundant lakes, streams and community pools available to us in central Ohio and beyond. Gazing out across a vast body of water on my kayak is one of my favorite things. Serene as the water may look, however, it’s important to not let your guard down about safety.
Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children ages one to four, with almost 400 cases reported in 2014 according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention. Every day, about 10 people die from unintentional drowning. No one is immune.
My father-in-law, Bob, who is 83, wandered into the deep end of the family pool two years ago. We found him submerged. He fortunately was rescued by my nephew Carson in time and had a good outcome. This isn’t always what occurs. It only takes seconds and a life can be lost. In fact, we’ve already had several child drowning deaths in Ohio this season.
In our state, an average of 34 children and youth aged one-19 drown each year. Not surprisingly, the summer months from May to August are when 73% of these deaths take place. While children can drown in water anywhere, young children (aged one to nine) are at greater risk of drowning in swimming pools, while older youths (aged 10-19) are at greater risk of drowning in natural bodies of water, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
And it’s not just the young – adults get in trouble on the water, too. The brother of one my partners, an accomplished sailor, drowned when he fell over board and got his feet caught up in a rope. He did not have his life jacket on.
Last year in Ohio, 18 people died in boating-related accidents and 16 were reported to be male. Of these, the largest number were related to power boats (11). Of the 18 people who died, 15 were not wearing a life jacket. Nationwide, 90% of people in boating-related drownings did not wear a life jacket. Life jackets are a must and setting firm ground rules before embarking on your adventure will keep everyone safe.
Here are some helpful tips to enjoy your summer around water safely:
– Teach your children to swim
– Never leave a young child unattended near the water
– Never swim alone
– Wear a life jacket
– Remember that air-filled or foam toys are not safety devices
– Only swim in places that are supervised
– A parent or responsible baby-sitter should always stay an “arms-length” away from any inexperienced swimmer
– Never dive into unfamiliar water
– Know the weather conditions
– Avoid distractions when supervising children
– Call 911 immediately if any person who is submerged demonstrates symptoms of water in the lungs such as coughing and choking
– Alcohol and water don’t mix when it comes to swimming safety
Enjoy your summer and be safe. Accidents do occur but many can be prevented with preparation, setting rules and not participating in high risk behaviors. And don’t forget to lather up the sun screen!
Dr. Paul A. Willette is a residency trained, board certified emergency medicine specialist with 27 years of experience. He is a clinical professor at Ohio University and works for US-Acute Care Solutions at Mercy Health.