One of my favorite things to do is sit by the pool with my puppy. I enjoy watching my normally very high-spirited little cockapoo as he lies by the water and becomes very calm and still. And his mood is catching; I enjoy the peacefulness as I wonder what little puppies think about.
There is certainly something about being around water that is soothing and stress-relieving. Even with loud laughter, motors gearing up and horns honking, we still can derive pleasure and relaxation from the presence of water. And living where we do, there are multiple opportunities to enjoy water activities at nearby beaches, lakes, ponds and pools.
Despite its relaxing properties, water poses safety threats. Drowning still is the second most-common cause of death from injuries among Americans younger than 24.
Each year, more than 7,000 drowning deaths occur in the United States. For every child who drowns, four more are hospitalized when they nearly drown, and for every hospital admission, four other children are treated in hospital emergency rooms.
People have been known to die in less than two minutes after becoming submerged in water. In the 10 seconds it takes to cross the room for a towel, a child in the bathtub can become submerged and that child could lose consciousness if not taken out of the water in two minutes. Seventy-seven percent of children who drown only had been missing from sight for five minutes or less.
A submerged child can sustain permanent brain damage after being under water for four to six minutes. Near drownings can cause brain damage that may result in long-term disabilities including memory problems, learning disabilities and permanent loss of basic functioning.
Many drownings occur when someone accidentally falls into water. Accidents can happen anywhere and the presence of water can complicate even a minor fall. If you and your family enjoy being in or around water, you need to know how to be safe.
The following safety precautions are good rules to follow around pools, lakes and oceans:
1. Pay attention to local weather conditions and forecasts. Stop swimming at the first indication of bad weather.
2. Never leave a child alone near water (pool, beach or the tub). A tragedy can occur in seconds. If you must leave, take your child with you. When around water, stay close and maintain constant eye contact. Never leave a child unattended even for a second and never assume someone else is watching your child. If you don’t see them, check the water first and then check other locations.
3. Never swim alone. Always swim with a partner. Make sure a lifeguard is present when swimming in a pool or at the beach. Supervise children closely, even when lifeguards are present.
4. Swim in supervised and designated swim areas only. Stay out of the way of springboard divers and obey all rules and posted signs such as “no diving” signs that indicate an area is unsafe for swimming or headfirst entries. If you don’t know the depth of the water, enter feet first.
5. Don’t mix alcohol and swimming or boating. Alcohol impairs your judgment, balance and coordination, affects your swimming and diving skills, and reduces your body’s ability to stay warm.
6. Do not chew gum or eat while you swim — you easily could choke.
7. Use common sense about swimming after eating. It’s wise to wait an hour after eating a large meal before you swim.
8. Always wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life vest in the ocean, river or lakes. Georgia law mandates that children ages 9 and younger must wear a Coast Guard type I, II, III or V PFD vest when on a boat or personal watercraft. The maximum fine for not complying is $1,000. Even good swimmers can become tired or get too cold to swim well. Don’t rely on flotation devices, such as rafts, as they may be lost in the water.
9. Should you fall into the water or get caught in a river current when swimming, float on your back with toes up out of the water and your feet pointing downstream to fend off any obstacles.
10. If caught in a rip current, swim sideways until free, don’t swim against the current’s pull and don’t try to stand in a moving current. Swim parallel to the shore if you wish to swim long distances
11. Know your swimming limits and stay within them. Don’t try to keep up with a stronger, more skilled swimmer or encourage others to keep up with you. If you are in trouble, call or wave for help.
12. Be sure rafts and docks are in good condition without loose boards or exposed nails. Never swim under a raft or dock.
13. Always have a first-aid kit and emergency phone contacts handy. Parents should be trained in CPR.
14. When boating, don’t overload the boat.
15. Remember that children — especially younger ones — can drown in as little as one inch of water. This puts them at risk of drowning in buckets or pails as well as in wading pools, spas or hot tubs.
16. Finally, please make sure everyone is protected against the sun. Not only do sunburns destroy skin (which controls the amount of heat our bodies retain or release and protects us from infection), they also may lead to skin cancer and eye problems.
Ratcliffe is a consultant to the Coastal Health District. You can call her at 876-6399.