LIVINGSTON — As summer begins and thousands of families spend time at area beaches and local pools, they should be mindful of the danger of drowning for children of all ages. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death in children. Each year more than 1,400 children under the age of 20 drown and it is estimated that for each drowning, at least one to four children suffer a non-fatal injury requiring hospitalization.
Timothy S. Yeh, MD, FAAP, FCCM, Chairman of Pediatrics at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, said that nonfatal drowning can cause brain damage, long-term disabilities, memory problems, learning malfunctions and permanent loss of basic brain function.
The most important preventative measures people should take to prevent water-related deaths and injuries are to maintain proper supervision and to learn to swim. Parents and caregivers need to be advised that they should never—even for a moment—leave children alone or in the care of another young child while in bathtubs, pools, spas, or wading pools or near irrigation ditches or other open standing water.
“Children 5 years and older and adults should know how to swim if they plan to go into the water – whether it be in a pool, lake, river or ocean,” Dr. Yeh said. “Inexperienced swimmers should take exceptional precaution if they plan to go into any body of water.”
In addition, Dr. Yeh said people should only swim in areas supervised by a trained and certified lifeguard.
To help protect you and your family this summer, here are some additional water-safety tips:
* Children who cannot swim should always wear an approved personal flotation device (PFD) not only in the water, but around the water. Children should never be left unsupervised around water.
* Be informed regarding the water you are swimming in including tides, rip currents, deep and shallow areas.
* Enter the water feet-first. Only dive into water that has been marked safe for diving.
* Do not mix alcohol or drugs with swimming as they impair your balance, judgement and coordination.
* Don’t go swimming in bad weather or rough water.
* Learn CPR so you can assist someone in trouble.
* Keep a phone nearby at all times so you can call 9-1-1 in an emergency.
* Enclose pool areas with safety gates and keep lifesaving devices nearby.
* Completely remove pool covers before swimming.
Dr. Yeh warned that children are drawn to any type of water, so constant supervision is of critical importance. “If a child goes missing, check the water first,” he said. Check any nearby pools, streams, lakes, even the toilet or bathtub.”
If someone is hurt or injured while swimming, immediately seek emergency medical treatment by dialing 9-1-1. Check the victim’s pulse and begin CPR if they are not breathing. If a victim has injured themselves diving or has hurt their head, try not to move the patient very much and stabilize them on a solid surface.