Summer is here finally (in the Northern Hemisphere) and we are so happy after a bitterly cold winter which forced me to buy more jackets than necessary. So now the weather is nice, occasionally disrupted by a heat wave that lasts for days. I am sure that you have been out swimming in a pool, a lake, out in the sea by your favorite beach. It’s summer so water activities come to the forefront.
With that said, I think it’s time to tackle safety in any body of water.
I’m not trying to scare you but did you know that drowning is the second cause of death for children under 12 in the US? In many countries, drowning is the leading cause of death for children under 12. So what’s a child to do? Maybe don’t start swimming until they reach 13? Not realistic. Here’s another statistic (they are all from Wikipedia.com): 90% of drowning occur in fresh water: lakes, ponds & pools and 10% in seawater. So the way to avoid it is to go swim in a sea or ocean to avoid drowning? Too idealistic, and here’s why:
Did you know that children can drown in bathtubs too? Most people think that drowning involves panicking and trashing in the water. It can happen but according to my source above – drowning itself is “quick and silent” and to the untrained eye it “can look similar to calm safe behavior.
SO how do you prevent drowning?
Learn how to swim. Ideally you should be able to swim freestyle, backstroke and dog paddle (swimming like a dog). Wikihow.com stated that if you raise your hands above your head, your head will sink below the surface of the water. So don’t do that. Move your hands under the water in any way you can to raise your head above the water. Don’t panic or flail either. You may also kick with your feet or move your legs in the act of walking to keep you afloat. Using your legs will prevent your arms from tiring.
The objective in any drowning situation is to keep your head above water in order to be able to breathe. If you are in a bathtub and you start going under (sometimes bathtubs are too big for some children), push yourself with your legs and hands or grab something to help you bring your head out of the water. Hold your breath. Don’t panic because you can hold your breath for at least 20-60 seconds anyway.
Best thing to do is attend a water safety course given in your community. But if you don’t know how to swim, this summer is the time to learn it.
Here are a few more tips on water safety (mostly for children but may apply to adults too):
Don’t just jump in any water without checking the depth first. Water may look deep but it what if it’s not? Or there maybe structures under the water that’s not visible from looking at it from above the waterline.
Unless you swam across the English Channel already – do not underestimate the distance of where you are swimming to. Make sure you know your limits: How far can you swim? How long can you swim without getting too tired? This is important when you try to swim to a distant location.
Some beach areas are susceptible to strong currents. Even a strong swimmer cannot swim against the current. It’s like walking up a down escalator. You will get nowhere. Study the beach first; ask the locals and the lifeguard before you start swimming. Here’s what I read from one of the beach signs: If you notice that the current is taking you out to sea, don’t swim against it, instead swim parallel to the shore. After a few dozen feet you will reach an area unaffected by the current. Now you will be able to swim back to shore.
When you swim in the ocean, make sure there are no jellyfish, sea urchins or jagged corals on the bottom. If you are wading and can’t see the bottom, slowly drag your foot along the sea floor without putting any weight on it. Jellyfish are easy to spot and oftentimes dozens of them are in one area so they will be visible even in deep dark water.
Do not go swimming immediately after a meal. Is this one of those old wives tale? No! Your chances of cramping increases because your body is busy digesting so any hard effort like swimming may produce cramps. If you cramp while swimming, it may cause you to drown.
Always go swimming with an adult watching. Make sure that adult knows how to swim too just in case he or she has to save you.
Don’t go swimming in dark murky waters, or in slimy ones. It sounds adventurous and exciting but there may be bacteria present there that you are not accustomed to that could lead to illness.
And finally for parents: Do not teach your kid how to swim by dunking them in deep water. Hardly anyone learned how to swim that way. I had this experience and all I did is swallow a lot of sea water and gasp for air while water was coming in my nostrils. It sounds macho but very unsafe. I didn’t learn to swim that day. In fact I know of at least one person who is now a grandparent but is afraid of dipping into anything deeper than waist deep water because she was also “taught” how to swim by getting dunked.
Have a safe day in the water!