Don’t forget to follow safe practices around water
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On hot, sunny summer days, nothing feels more relaxing than sitting out by a cool pool or taking a weekend trip to the lake. For those who have children — especially children who are unable to swim — there must be an extra layer of precaution.
A young child can drown in as little as 1 inch of water. It is important that someone is always watching out for children, even in a small baby pool.
“It does not take long for a child to drown,” said Khylie Wurdeman, LMH Health emergency medicine physician. “It can happen very fast.”
Drowning can happen anywhere — even in toilets, coolers, bathtubs and sinks. In states where backyard pools are common, drowning is the leading cause of death in children ages 5 and younger. If you have a pool on your property or one that is easily accessible to children, make sure all gates are closed and locked so that children cannot access it without adult supervision.
Though drowning is a top concern for children around a body of water, it is most important just to be safe. People of all ages should make sure to know how deep the water is they’re jumping into. A good rule of thumb is do not dive if the water is shallow, if there is a sign that says no diving or if you do not know the depth of the water. If you cannot see what is below you, do not jump in.
“There should be absolutely no jumping in the water where you wonder, ‘What’s beneath me?'” said Toni Reynolds, LMH Health emergency medicine physician. “We have lots of injuries with significant scrapes and broken skin because people have jumped in murky water where they did not know what was below them. They ended up getting hurt on a giant branch, rocks or when the depth was extremely shallow. Only jump in the lake or water when you know the coast is clear.”
If you have broken skin, be careful when getting into lake water. Though there is a risk of infection with any injury, you’re more prone to infection when exposing a wound to lake water.
“There are certain infections that come from lake water,” Wurdeman said. “You can cut yourself on a rock and get an infection, but in a lake you can cut yourself and get a much more serious and dangerous infection.”
If you plan to go to the lake with young children, they should always have a life vest on, even if they are good swimmers.
“Make sure all young children have a life vest on at all times, even on the dock. No excuses,” Reynolds said. “It needs to be a secure life vest, too — not one that could easily slip off or deflate.”
If you are responsible for the supervision and safety of children, do not drink. If you have kids near water, you should make sure there are a few people designated to keep careful watch and who can jump into action if need be.
“Do not have your kids close to water when you have been drinking,” Reynolds said. “And do not drive your boat when you have been drinking.”
The same laws that apply to drinking and driving also apply to drinking and driving your boat. Though children should always have a life vest on, that does not excuse the adults from being supervisors. It is important that all children are watched carefully at all times to avoid disaster.
If you or someone in your group has epilepsy or chronic seizures, they should have a life jacket of some kind on at all times. Wurdeman said people sometimes don’t realize it, but you can still seize underwater.
“A seizure while in the water can happen quickly, be deadly and bystanders might not know what is going on,” she said. “So it is important to take extra precautions. Make sure others are aware if you or someone you know has epilepsy or a similar medical condition that could cause you to be impaired while in the water.”
If you enroll your child in swimming lessons, remember that although it is important for children to learn to swim, lessons will not prevent drowning. Make sure to watch them anytime they are near water.
Teach young children about water safety. Some basic rules may include swimming with a buddy, not pushing into or running around the pool and knowing to call 911 immediately if there is an emergency.
“Be careful and be smart,” Reynolds said. “Water safety is important, so take some extra time to make sure you and your children are safe.”
— Jessica Brewer is the social media and digital communications specialist at LMH Health, which is a major sponsor of the Lawrence Journal-World’s Health section.