By CARLLA JONES, U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine, Aberdeen Proving Ground, MDJune 1, 2011
Did you know that, on average, it takes only 20 seconds for a child and 60 seconds for an adult to drown? Drowning is often a silent event, especially for children because those 5 years old and under don’t understand the danger of falling into water and usually don’t splash, cry or call out for help. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2007, there were nearly 3,500 drownings in the United States, averaging about 10 deaths per day.
More than one in five of drowning victims are 14 and younger, and for every child who dies from drowning, another four receive emergency care for non-fatal submersion injuries. Unfortunately, for those that only “nearly drown,” the result is also often tragic. Near-drowning may result in memory problems, learning disabilities or severe brain damage.
Before taking your Family out for a relaxing dip this summer, keep the following tips in mind:
• Designate a responsible adult “water watcher” to supervise all children swimming or playing in or around water. This adult should not be distracted by anything else " that means no chatting with other people, reading books, talking or texting on a cell phone or grilling.
• Avoid drinking alcohol before and during swimming, boating or water skiing. Be especially careful to abstain from alcohol while supervising children.
• For home pools, install a four-sided, isolation pool fence that completely separates the house from the pool area. The fence should be non-climbable and at least 4 feet tall. Use self-closing, self-latching gates that open outward and have latches above the reach of children. Place items that can be used for climbing, such as tables and chairs, away from fences.
• Remove all floats and other toys from the pool immediately after use. These toys can tempt children to enter the pool area or lean over the pool and accidentally fall in.
• Know the local weather conditions and forecast before swimming or boating. Bad weather can make swimming and boating very dangerous.
• Always use U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices (PFDs), regardless of the distance to be traveled, the size of the boat or the swimming ability of the boaters. Do not use air-filled or foam toys (like “water wings”) in place of a PFD.
• Always swim with a buddy, even if you are an excellent swimmer.
Anytime your plans involve water-related activities, you should plan ahead for emergencies. Teach everyone in your group how to use safety equipment and how to call 911. It’s also a good idea to learn CPR. Your CPR skills could make a difference in someone’s life until paramedics arrive.
Summertime means fun in and around the water. Whether you’re at the ocean, lake or neighborhood pool, be water wise and prevent drowning and other injuries.
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For more information about water safety, visit these Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov/SafeChild/Drowning/default.htm or Safe Kids U.S.A. at www.usa.safekids.org and search for “drowning.”
Soldiers aren’t immune to recreational swimming and boating accidents. Earlier this year, a Soldier drowned when he fell from a boat into chilly water while fishing at a pond. The Soldier, who was not wearing a life jacket, was unable to climb back into the boat and sank below the surface.
In fiscal 2010, eight Soldiers died while participating in off-duty water-related activities, including:
• A Soldier who had been snorkeling in shallow water with Family members was found unresponsive. She was pronounced dead at a local medical center.
• A Soldier drowned in a hotel swimming pool while on a brigade-sponsored retreat.
• A Soldier drowned in a lake when he attempted to swim from a boat to retrieve a can floating on the water.
• A Soldier died when the boat he was operating struck a concrete bridge piling.
• A Soldier drowned when his kayak capsized on a river while on a recreational trip.