The One About Water Safety

They had been on the boat all morning.  Five-year-old, Matthew, had been wearing his life jacket as he usually does and had been under the supervision of his father.  Matthew was comfortable on the boat and in the water.

As they were loading up to head home, Matthew went back out on the marina to use the restroom.  When he didn’t return in a timely manner, his dad went out on the marina and found Matthew face down in the water, unresponsive and not breathing.

I cannot imagine a more terrifying moment.

His name isn’t Matthew, but his story is real.  His family was usually good about water safety.  I don’t know what happened that day because no one witnessed his fall.  CPR was performed on the scene while EMS was en route.  After several very difficult weeks in the hospital, Matthew was discharged home with plans for outpatient rehab.  His ability to walk out of the hospital was nothing short of miraculous given how grave his condition had been just weeks earlier.

The importance of water safety cannot be stressed enough!  The CDC estimates that an average of 10 drowning deaths occur daily in the United States.  Of these, 2 are children under the age of 14.

  • For every drowning death in the US, the CDC estimates that 5 more people receive treatment for near-drowning incidents.
  • Most drownings that occur under the age of 4 happen in home swimming pools.
  • As children get older, the number of drownings are increasingly concentrated in natural water settings (lakes, rivers, etc).

I love the water and have from a very young age!  My summers as a kid were spent in the pool, and my summers as a teen were spent life guarding and teaching swimming lessons.  Anyone I talk to in the office in the summer time knows that I encourage water activities.  They are fun and they keep families outside and active.  So, by all means, enjoy the water this summer!!  Check out the safety tips below, and be diligent about safety for you and your children anytime you are in or around the water.

Safety Tips:

1. Keep close supervision at all times.  Nothing  replaces this.  Nothing.  I like the description of “touch supervision” for young children in the water, meaning that they are no further than arms reach at any time.

2. Home swimming pools should be fenced on all sides with locks installed on the gates.

3. Life jackets should be worn at all times on boats or other watercraft.  Even in pools they can help keep younger children safe.  Floating water toys are toys, not safety devices.

4. Swimming lessons can be started at a young age.  The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) supports starting swimming lessons as early as age one.  Children with better swimming skills are at a decreased risk of drowning.

5. Encourage the buddy system as kids get older.

6. Learn CPR.  CPR that is administered quickly while EMS is en route can and does save lives.  Visit the American Red Cross website for information on classes.

Have fun in the water and BE SAFE!