By: Dr. Beckie Bergman

Part 1 of this blog, published on Tuesday, covered at-home water and pool safety. Today, we are focusing on water safety when out and about, water safety and teens, and how to identify and help someone who is drowning.

As the beaches start to open, do you plan on going? If so, supervision, even if lifeguards are there, is extremely important. 

  • No one should swim alone; utilize a buddy system. Although teens do not need to stay an arm’s length from an adult, they should still have a partner, and they should keep an eye on each other. 
  • When entering shallow water or water of unknown depth, go feet first. Do not dive in. All it takes is diving head first into something solid or hitting a rock to cause life threatening injuries. 
  • Try to choose safer places to swim, such as areas with lifeguards, no rip currents, and no big surf. 

Going boating? (As I type, that really sounds like a lot of fun.) 

  • Let me start with two words: LIFE JACKET! Did your child win state in swimming? Congrats! STILL WEAR THE LIFE JACKET! I don’t care how old you are or how well you swim (Actually, I do care, but it is irrelevant for this point.) A life jacket is extremely important when boating. It has to fit and be secured properly. Floaties are not life jackets. Inflatable toys are not life jackets. Some families are purchasing boats such as kayaks and paddle boats to keep entertained while staying apart. As I said, wear a life jacket! Make sure that those using the boats are trained, and enjoy the boat in a safe location. 

Going back to teenagers, I would like to add a few additional points. 

1) Teens are more likely to overestimate their abilities and underestimate risks and dangers.

2) They may also be experiencing peer pressure. Your teen may be a very responsible kid, but the brain is simply not fully developed during adolescence. Be aware and continue to remind them of safety.

3) Also, NO ALCOHOL! I discourage drinking for all teens in general, but the combination of alcohol and swimming or boating is extremely dangerous. (Parents, to state the obvious, you should not be drinking either if you are driving a boat or supervising kids in the water.) 

To help someone who is drowning, it helps to know the signs. I love a good summer movie, but drowning in movies is very “Hollywood,” not accurate. Drowning does not involve flailing and screaming as it appears on the big screen. A drowning victim demonstrates what is termed an 

Instinctive Drowning Response: 

1) The victim is usually unable to call for help. Breathing, not speaking, is the body’s priority. 

2) The mouth will bob above and below the water’s surface. There may be time for a breath but not a scream. 

3) The victim cannot wave for help. Arms will be extended to the side and hand down to push on the water’s surface in an attempt to keep the mouth above water. 

4) He or she cannot voluntarily control arm movement for things such as waving, moving toward someone, or reaching for rescue equipment. 

5) Bodies remain upright. A person can only struggle for 20-60 seconds before being submerged.

 By knowing what to watch for, we all have a better chance of recognizing a serious situation in enough time to prevent a horrible outcome. We all need to look out for each other. 

If possible, swim lessons and CPR training are beneficial. It may be hard to find access to this training during the pandemic, but, if you cannot do it now, put it on your to-do list for your kids and yourself. 

I wish you and your families a wonderful, safe summer! Enjoy spending time together and making memories! .

If you want to find more information about summer safety, go to healthychildren.org. 

P.S. As long as I still have your attention, I will throw in (as a bonus) what I call my “summer trifecta”: Don’t forget to wear your sunscreen, bug spray, and bike helmet!

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