Summer water safety


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When the summer sun packs a wallop like it has this week, thoughts turn to staying cool.

For children and adults across the state, a dip in the water — whether pool, pond or lake — is the best way to beat the heat.

Without caution and supervision, though, a perfect day can quickly turn tragic.

Although not every scenario can be controlled, it is possible to lessen the risk involved. Children should always be supervised and taught how to be safe around water. Even adults should make sure they take precautions, such as avoiding drinking while swimming or boating and making sure those with them wear a life jacket when it’s appropriate.

“It only takes a few seconds and a few inches of water for a child to drown,” cautions Jay Kaplan, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

Drowning is the number one cause of unintentional-injury deaths for children from ages 1 to 4, with almost 400 deaths in 2014, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While the danger is especially high for children because they may not be as familiar with how to act in and around water, it poses a threat regardless of age. About 10 people die from drowning every day in the United States — making it the fifth leading cause of death from unintentional injury — and an average of two drowning victims a day are 14 years old and younger.

Those who survive accidents often require lengthy hospitalization or medical care.

The danger is not limited to large bodies of water. Young children have drowned in inflatable pools with just a few inches of water in them because they often panic and don’t know how to react to save themselves. This is a reason many municipalities across Illinois have laws requiring fences be erected around in-ground, on-ground or above-ground pools that can hold more than 24 inches of water. The Consumers Product Safety Commission says the majority of drownings and near-drownings involve children being able to reach a pool unnoticed either where they live or where they were visiting.

The American College of Emergency Physicians, a national group representing emergency medical professionals, offers several guidelines for staying safe:

• Supervise children: Watch them at all times when near water. It can take only a matter of seconds for a child to accidentally drown when an adult turns away.

• Learn to swim: Formal swim lessons can protect people, especially young children, from drowning.

• Learn CPR: It can take paramedics several minutes to arrive and these skills can mean the difference between life and death or permanent brain damage.

• Use the buddy system: Never swim alone and swim in areas that have lifeguards on duty if possible.

• Don’t drink: Alcohol can impair judgment and cognitive skills, including while supervising children.

• Don’t overestimate ability: Everyone has limits, even the most experienced of swimmers.

Summer can still be a time to enjoy the sun and water. It just takes a little caution to make sure it stays fun.

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