Already it is time for spring and summer, and many families are preparing to enjoy sunny days at North Carolina’s beaches, lakes, and pools. Unfortunately, sometimes these happy occasions turn tragic because of an accident in the water, particularly if someone drowns. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) there are more than 3,500 fatal unintentional drownings in the United States (US) every year, which means approximately 10 deaths a day! Did you know that 1 out of every 4 drowning victims are children aged 14 years or younger? And, it is estimated that for every child that dies, four receive emergency care for water-related injuries! African Americans of all ages suffer a fatal drowning rate of 30% higher than the rate of whites, and African American children [age 14 and younger] have a fatal drowning rate of more than 3 times the rate of white children.
What are the risk factors for unintentional drowning?
According to the CDC, the major risk factors for children are lack of supervision and lack of barriers (such as pool fencing or locked bathroom doors). According to the national Safe Kids Campaign, a study revealed that many parents who say they are supervising their children while swimming are not putting their full attention on the children and are doing something else, like talking to another person, reading, eating or talking on the telephone. Among adults, the risk factor of alcohol use is involved in many water and boating fatalities. Other risk factors that can occur in children and adults are:
• Not wearing a life vest / life jacket
• Not practicing safety around recreational watercraft
• Lack of swimming knowledge – The CDC has found in a national study, that African Americans self-report being the most limited with regard to swimming ability
• Seizure disorders – persons with these illnesses should be monitored when around bathtubs, pools, lakes, rivers, the ocean or any open water.
How can I reduce my and my family’s risk?
• NEVER leave children alone in any water – this means bathtubs, pools, or natural water
• ALWAYS swim with someone else – at least have someone watching you while you are swimming in case of emergency
• Teach your children not to run, push, or jump over others near the water
• Learn the steps of Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) – CPR has been shown to save lives, when often it can take a few minutes for paramedics to arrive. Your local Red Cross offers these classes.
• Make sure you and your family always use life vests that are approved by the US Coast Guard
• Avoid drinking alcohol before swimming, boating or other water sports.
• Inflatable floats are not designed to keep swimmers safe or save lives.
• Make sure that you and your family swim in safe areas of rivers, lakes, and oceans
• Take yourself and your family to swimming and water safety classes – Most local swimming pools and YMCAs/YWCAs, as well as some parks, offer these types of classes.
• If someone is watching your children, make sure they know how to swim, know CPR, and have a telephone close by for an emergency.
• If you have a pool at your house, make sure that the area is properly protected with locked doors so that children cannot go into the pool without adult supervision.
• If you go to the beach, make sure you do not drift away from shore when there is a riptide
• If you do get caught in a riptide, swim parallel to shore and you will eventually swim out of the riptide, and then you can swim toward shore.
• Know the weather conditions before swimming or boating on lakes, rivers or the ocean.
Do you need further information or have questions or comments about this article? Please check out the American Red Cross at www.redcross.org or call The People’s Clinic toll-free 1-877-530-1824. Or, for more information about the Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity, please visit our website: http://www.wakehealth.edu/MACHE.