Water Safety

We have reached the “dog days” of summer, and during these stretches of hot and humid weather, many people seek respite in the water, be it a swimming pool, lake or ocean. But with relief there can also be danger, and it’s important to take steps to keep your family safe.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, each year, approximately 4,000 people in the United States drown. Children are especially vulnerable, and the CDC reports that drowning is to blame for more deaths in children between the ages of one and four than any other cause. Additionally, drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death among children ages one to 14.

“As alarming as those numbers are, it’s even scarier when you take into consideration the lack of data among nonfatal drowning, which occur several hundred times as frequently as reported drowning deaths,” Dr Shaun Sheehan, Emergency Medicine service line medical director and Transfer Center medical director at Penn Highlands Healthcare, said.

So, what can you do to keep your child safe?

According to Sheehan, there are many things you can do to keep your family’s summer fun from turning into a trip to the Emergency Department.

• Keep an eye on children at all times. “Kids can drown in seconds and, often, in silence. While most people think of the Hollywood version of a drowning, with arms flailing and children shouting for help, the reality is that often times those in trouble are unable to shout. The struggle to stay above the water can demand so much energy and air that they simply don’t have enough remaining to shout for help,” Sheehan said.

  • Never leave a child unattended in a pool, spa or near any body of water.
  • Designate a water watcher to supervise children in the pool or water area. “This is particularly important when swimming in a location where there is no lifeguard on duty,” Sheehan said. “The person responsible for watching over the swimmers should also be sure to steer clear of any distractions, such as books, iPads or smartphones.” Sheehan also pointed out that removing pool toys and rafts when not in use can deter children from entering the pool area when unsupervised.
  • Learn how to swim and teach your child how to swim.
  • Never substitute air-filled swimming aids, such as water wings, for a life jacket or life preserver.
  • Learn how to perform CPR on children and adults. “In many instances of drowning, an important component to saving the victim’s life is that someone nearby was trained in CPR, particularly in how to give mouth-to-mouth rescue breathing, which can buy the crucial time needed for expert treatment to be available,” Sheehan said.
  • When visiting a beach, always swim within the designated swimming areas and do not venture beyond that space.
  • Teach water safety. “Talk to children about risky behavior such as diving or swimming in unfamiliar water,” Sheehan said.

Following these safety tips can mean the difference between life and death. By taking the time to stay safe, these summer days can stay fun.

To learn more about the emergency services available at Penn Highlands Healthcare or to find information about an upcoming CPR class, visit www.phhealthcare.org. Additionally, contact your local ambulance provider to inquire about upcoming CPR training.