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Child Safety

Water Safety Now! Part I


In Virginia, drowning is the fifth leading cause of unintentional deaths.

Some horrific statistics released this week noted that failing to observe water safety has cost the lives of 10 children at New Jersey beaches, lakes and pools already this summer. These are terrible tragedies and our hearts go out to the families of the children who drowned.

The latter is especially tragic as in almost every case, accidental drownings are preventable. While swimming can be fun, swimming alone is dangerous. Children need watching, children around water need buddies and watching! Beach swimmers need to observe the rules of the beach, especially if there is no lifeguard present. No lifeguard, no swimming!

It’s pretty simple. Swimming in the ocean where people may be unaware of rip currents or strong waves is dangerous. People, especially children, need to be taught to avoid water where there are rip currents, and if caught unawares, how to react to and survive them.

Running and jumping or diving in a pool with a hard or cement bottom–especially if you don’t know the depth of the pool–can make swimming dangerous and unsafe. Children need to be taught NOT to run and dive or jump at a public or backyard pool or to jump in pools where other children are already swimming.

Accidents around water happen fast!

Leaving children alone in bathtubs, spas, hot tubs or pools is a mistake that parents and caregivers should not make. It can and has cost children their lives. Never leave kids alone in or near water, no matter how shallow! A child can drown in water 3 inches deep.

Swimming in lakes, rivers or ponds where people are unaware of  possible covered physical barriers under the water, the depths of the water, strong currents, the proximity of dams, bridge supports, drains, rocks, boat docking equipment or pipes under the water, can be very dangerous. More than two years ago 6 year old Asa Gayle from Richmond, Virginia, drowned at Lake Anna, Virginia, after falling from the dam while fishing with her grandparents and sister. The suction from the dam pulled her under and she drowned despite multiple attempts by family and rescuers to help her. Swimming, jumping or fishing where signs say “No SWIMMING, JUMPING or FISHING” is a bad, unsafe idea. Around the water, signs and rules must be obeyed, because accidents happen fast–and often there is no time for more explanation!

Knowing the type of river, lake or pond bottom (weeds, sand, rocks, etc.) or whether there are wildlife in the area are also important in order to avoid accidents. So there are things, which, depending upon the area and the type of water your child is swimming in, that can make swimming a potentially dangerous sport. There are not only live critters like fish, eels, beavers, snakes, turtles and more in lakes, rivers and ponds…there are miniscule critters called bacteria, mildew and pollen floating in so-called “fresh” water. And there is “poop” from fish, birds and waterfowl. If the lake, river or pond borders farmland, you may even see excrement from farm animals floating–not a pleasant site and best left alone. And there is also Naegleria fowleri, the brain-eating amoeba found in swamps, ditches, ponds, lakes and rivers. So if you don’t know what’s in the water, it’s best NOT to take in water by swallowing it, or allowing it go up your nose. (In our family, we always followed the don’t-get-your-head-wet rule, if it were possible.) by using nose plugs, the finger-pinch method or goggles that cover your face/nose. Discourage children from “ducking” swimming pals! This, too, can have disastrous results.

There is another danger that previously I did not know existed and this is why I am sharing it with parents and caregivers now–because it is scary! There can be at marinas, docks and boatyards on freshwater lakes and rivers, danger from leaking electrical current if ground faults have not been properly installed or maintained. There have been a number of drowning deaths at marinas where electrical shock has caused swimmers to drown. The first rule is DON’T SWIM AT MARINAS where electrical current has been run to docks for the purpose of boat repair, etc. Respect the signs  at marinas that say either “NO SWIMMING” or “DANGER! No Swimming, No diving!” etc. Those signs are there for a reason! So Never Swim at Marinas, Docks or Boatyards!

If parents have a pool in their backyard, supervise your child while swimming!–you might want to even invest in a ShockAlarm which gives a warning sound when electrical current has entered your pool area! And there is a pool alarm which lets you know that a child or person is in your pool! Good investments in safety, like wearing life jackets, using proper flotation devices and installing pool and shock alarms–always pay off!

Author: Marianne Halterman

Marianne is a member of the SafeKids Coalition of the Central Shenandoah Valley.

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