Child drownings in open waters are on the rise. This is very important news for those who plan outings this spring and summer to oceans, lakes and rivers. Although awareness about pool safety and child drownings has helped to keep kids safe, the dangers of open waters are now in the forefront due to a study that was just published by a childhood safety organization. More kids are drowning in open waters than in pools.
Safe Kids Worldwide has just issued a report that every parent should review. Drowning rates for kids have increased since 2011 to more than 1,000. But the report makes it clear that these numbers do not tell the whole story. Many kids and families also experience non-fatal drownings. These are estimated to be at about 7,000 kids and they are not necessarily reported as a child may be rescued on site or visit an ER. Near-drownings which can also cause serious injury, brain damage and other problems for children, are not being tracked. Prevention is key. The report is timely as we approach the swimming season.
Here is the big warning: just because your child or teen is able to swim well in a pool, does NOT mean they will be able to manage open water swimming. This is borne out by the numbers which show that these drownings are on the rise. The greatest danger is for boys, with an increasing risk as kids get older. The concern is that parents and others simply assume that a child is safe if he or she is a good pool swimmer.
The problem is that open water swimming is much different than swimming in a pool. There are many more variables in open water such as waves, uneven natural ocean, river or lake floor, water temperature and other factors. The study recommends that kids in open water should have an adult within arms length at all times. They also recommend that adults take turns watching kids, like lifeguards would, with concentration and no distractions for a specific time-frame during the visit to the water.
There are also several key skills that all parents and caregivers should know about to get kids prepared for safety. Practice jumping in and getting back to the water’s surface; practice knowing how to find safety if they get disoriented, and; treading water. Other safety practices include kids wearing a proper life jacket for their age and activity when in open water. Know the location you are swimming in and make sure you have read all signs about safety. If there are warnings or notifications at the site, they are to be taken seriously. These are meant for everyone, don’t assume that nothing will happen to you because you are familiar with a location.
It is helpful in many contexts for adults to learn life saving and CPR. It is particularly important around water where knowing these skills can mean all the difference. A first responder recently saved a child who otherwise would not have survived by performing underwater CPR. These skills can be crucial when a person has suffered a near drowning and can save lives.
Scholle Law hopes that all our readers have a fun and safe spring and summer. Please contact our law firm at any time for questions about an accident or injury.