Water Safety Tips
Summer heat is upon us and has finally struck with a vengeance! Families are heading to the pools and lakes in droves to seek refuge from the onslaught of summer heat. In our stampede to our phoenician sanctuaries of water this Fourth of July weekend, I hope we can all accept another reminder about water safety. With over 3,582 fatal unintentional drownings in the United States during 2005 (more than one in four were children 14 and younger), this is an epidemic we cannot afford to take lightly. As we march off to our water related 4th of July festivities, please keep these tips and suggestions in mind.
- Barriers: Most small children who drown in pools are only out of sight for less than 5 minutes and usually one the watch of one or more parents. A simple barrier can help slow down a curious child and even help alert the caregiver to the imminent emergency. In 1991, Arizona passed the pool barrier law, Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) § 33-1681, requiring an enclosure surrounding the pool area. Each city has their own ordinance governing the specific application of this law so check your cities website for details.
- Alcohol and Water Don’t Mix: Alcohol is responsible for nearly half of adolescent and adult deaths dealing with water recreation. It influences balance, coordination, judgement and its effects are heightened by sun exposure and heat (two things Arizona has an abundance of in the summer).
- Designated Eyes: Decide ahead of time who is in charge of which children and make certain that adult is not involved or distracted by any other activity (such as reading, phone conversation, yard work, etc.). Always swim with a buddy. Mothers should never swim alone with multiple small children.
- Learn to Swim: Although the American Academy of Pediatrics cautions against swimming lessons as a drowning prevention for children under the age of 4, small children can learn to float on their backs or even tread water. These skills could provide the addition of a few seconds and possibly mean the difference between life and death.
- Learn CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation): Average response time for emergency assistance was 5:04 for 2005 (http://www.ci.phoenix.az.us/FIRE/fireinfo.html). Drowning occurs within 20 seconds to 1 minute. if a person can be resuscitated within the next 4-6 minutes, they can be saved from most permanent forms of brain damage.
- Respect the Difference Between Toys and Life Saving Devices: Do not use air-filled foam toys, such as “water wings”, “noodles”, or inner-tubes in place of life jackets. These toys are meant for supervised recreation, not as life-saving or drowning-prevention devices. Once your swimming activities are over, be certain that all floats, balls and any other toys are removed from the pool area so they will not be an attraction to young children to re-enter.
- Weather: Pay attention to the weather and the forecasts for the day. Here in Arizona we have entered the monsoon season where weather conditions can change rapidly and become dangerous very quickly. Be aware of your surroundings, pay attention to warning signs and notices and respect the power of our unpredictable Arizona weather systems.
- Stay Hydrated: Just because you’re in the water, doesn’t mean you are getting enough fluids. Our bodies are two thirds water and when you lose large amounts of water through physical exertion and sweat, you could become very sick, lethargic and dizzy. As of 2004, the Institute of Medicine recommends of 2.7 liters (91 ounces) of total water for women and 3.7 liters (125 ounces) for men. This includes water from all sources (foods and drinks). Drink from measured containers (if you’re drinking from an 8oz bottle, it’s not hard to figured out how many bottles you should drink to stay hydrated). Remember that caffeine is a diuretic (meaning it makes you urinate more frequently) so it would be wise to steer clear of caffeinated drinks during any exercise but especially when out in the heat and water.
- Wear Sunscreen: Don’t forget to lather up your families! The Arizona sun can be a harsh companion in the summer heat. Remember, a tan is the body’s desperate attempt to protect itself from the powerful UVA and UVB rays of the sun as they damage the skin. Wear clothes made from tight-woven cloth or even UV protection. Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect face, neck and ears. Remember that clouds don’t block UV rays and won’t protect you and there is no cure for sun damage. Regardless of the SPF rating, sun screen should be reapplied every 2 hours, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Enjoy your Fourth of July weekend and keep your families safe around water throughout this summer. I hope this information has been helpful and will be taken to heart as we all work together to protect our children and each other from the dangers of water activities. We would love to hear your own safety suggestions and product recommendations so please follow up in our forums!