With today officially marking the first day of summer, more and more people will be spending time in swimming pools and also visiting area rivers and lakes.
While spending time in or near the water can be fun, it can also be dangerous. According to the Centers for Disease Control, an average of 3,868 people drowned each year from 2005-2014 — more than 10 people each and every day.
CDC statistics state that nearly 80 percent of drowning victims are male and children between the ages of 1-4 have the highest drowning rates, with the majority of those occurring in home swimming pools.
There are also several risk factors for drowning, including not being able to swim, lack of close supervision, lack of fencing and barriers around swimming pools, alcohol use and not wearing life jackets. According to the CDC, more than 70 percent of boating deaths in 2010 were by drowning, and 88 percent of those who drowned did not have on a life jacket.
Alcohol and water can be an especially bad mix. Alcohol use is involved in up to 70 percent of water-related deaths among adolescents and adults and is also a factor in 20 percent of boating deaths. Alcohol use can be a negative influence on judgment, coordination and balance, and more than that, summer sun and heat exacerbate those effects.
So what can be done to prevent water-related deaths this summer? The CDC lists several tips on its website. Among them are:
• Avoid alcohol. It’s pretty simple — if you’re going to be in or near the water, do not drink before or during any time in the water, by the water or on a boat.
• Wear your life jacket. Air-filled or foam toys, such as pool noodles or inner tubes, do not count.
• Watch the weather forecast. Know what kind of weather is expected before going swimming or out on the boat. Thunderstorms and associated wind and lightning are a great danger for swimmers and boaters.
• Know CPR. The time it takes for first responders to arrive could be the difference between life and death.
• Learn to swim. Self-explanatory.
• Use the buddy system. Do not swim alone. If possible, swim only where lifeguards are present.
• Supervise children in or near water. Make sure a responsible adult is watching young children while in the bath or playing in or near water, be it the pool, the river or the lake. Any adult supervising children should be near enough to reach the child at all times and should not be distracted by other activities, such as texting or reading.
• Beware of waves and rip currents. Keep an eye out for water that is choppy and discolored, foamy or filled with debris. If you get caught in a rip current, swim parallel to the shore — then once you get free of the current, swim diagonally toward the shore.
• Guard against water-borne illnesses. Stay out of the water if you have diarrhea or any open wounds. Also, wear sunscreen rated at least SPF 15 to block out ultraviolet rays that cause sunburn. Finally, shower before swimming — even one minute of rinsing in the shower makes a difference when it comes to removing germs.
Spending time at the pool, on the lake or at the river is a highlight of the summer for many people. But practice safe habits in or near the water to make sure a time of fun does not end in tragedy.