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Water safety: ‘ABCs’ are important in drowning prevention

By Staff | Jul 18, 2019

As many families head to the water to cool off with the summer’s rising temperatures, they are advised to keep in mind the simple ABCs to keep their children safe around bodies of water.

In Florida,the equivalent of about four preschool-size classrooms of kids are lost every year to drowning. In Lee County approximately six children die due to drowning every year.

Near drownings can also have severe results.

“Nonfatal drownings can be a lifelong injury. The child may not return to their normal self. They may have severe brain injury, short term, or long term injuries,”” Golisano Children’s Hospital Safe Kids Coordinator Sally Kreuscher said. “No one should ever swim alone.”

According to Safe Kids Southwest Florida, almost 800 children drown in the U.S. every year, two-thirds of which occur during May through August. The drowning risk varies by age with 1-year-olds and younger more likely to drown at home, 1 to 4-year-olds more likely to drown in a pool and children 5 to 17 years old are more likely to drown in natural water. With that said, more than half of all children drowning deaths are among children infants to 4 years old.

Then number of drownings are high in Florida due the great deal of access to many bodies of water.

“A lot of times people go to beaches, go boating, or go to the pool. There are different types of drowning, open water verses at home. The prevention is different,” she said.

Kreuscher said there is a misconception of what drowning looks like — arms flailing, big splashes when falling into the pool.

“That’s rarely the case. They are usually going under and no one really notices,” she said, which is why active supervision is crucial. “Put your book down, your cell phone down.”

The Safe Kids Southwest Florida website stated that drowning is quick and silent — a parent may have less than one minute to react after a child begins to struggle.

The best thing someone can ever do is have active eyes and be in arms reach of kids while around water. Kreuscher said they promote the “water watcher” tag program for adults. The water watcher tag states “while wearing this tag, I agree to supervise the children in the open water, or pool, keeping them in sight at all times. I will not leave the water area without finding an adult to replace me.”

She said having a watchful eye is especially important when the children are noncompetent swimmers, or weak swimmers.

Drowning Prevention begins with the ABCs — active supervision, barriers, or layers of protection, and knowing CPR.

“Should an accident happen you know how to properly respond,” Kreuscher said of knowing CPR.

As far as layers of protection, if an individual has a pool in their backyard, they should have such barriers as a self- closing gate, baby fence and door alarms. She said they offer free door alarms. Those interested can call 239-343-6199.

“We know kids are curious and they are fast,” she said. “We as parents are not able to watch our kids twenty-four, seven.”

With the multiple layers of protection, it slows down the time for the child to make it to the pool area. But, if a child goes missing, Kreuscher said check the pool first before any other area is sought.

She said parents should take the time to talk to their pediatrician about the right time for their child to learn to swim.

“In Southwest Florida we have water all around us, canals, lakes, residential pools, the beach,” Kreuscher said.

She said parents are not always going to be able to keep their kids safe, due to them going to their friends house, who may have a pool, or visiting the beach.

“Giving them education is important,” Kreuscher said.

According to the Safe Kids Southwest Florida website there are five survival skills that could save someone’s life in the water. Those include stepping, or jumping into water over ones head and returning to the surface; floating or treading water for one minute, turning around in a full circle and finding an exit from the water; swimming 25 yards to the exit, and if in a pool, exit without using the ladder.

Just because a child may go to swimming lessons, they still may not know how to swim.

“A lot of it is survival skills, giving them that basic life saving skills,” she said.

One way to keep children safe is using U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets. In Southwest Florida there are life jacket loaner stations, five located at beaches, and the other five at boat ramps. They can be found at www.safekidsswfl.org.

Kreuscher said she cannot stress enough how important U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets are, as well as the correct life jacket for the specific activity one is doing. She encourages individuals to not use blow up wing swimmers because they give kids a false sense of security and may slide off.

“Families can go and borrow a life jacket and return when done,” Kreuscher said. “I can almost guarantee the Sea Tow Foundation would be willing to provide a life jacket to a family if they need one.”

With different bodies of water, come different safety measures. She said the beach is much different from a pool. Often times someone can not see their feet in the water at the beach, therefore not knowing when they are stepping on a rock, or when there is a sharp drop off.

“There was a drowning at Cape Coral Yacht Club a few years ago,” Kreuscher said, adding that it is important to teach children the difference in swimming at a pool verses the beach.

In addition it’s important to stay calm when stuck in a rip tide. She said the best thing to do is not swim against the current, but rather ride it out until you become parallel to the coast allowing you to swim ashore.

It is also important to learn about boating safety. She said the best thing a child can do is take a boating class through the U.S. Coast Guard auxiliary, which offers boating lessons to be aware of water safety practices.