OTHER VIEWS: Always respect the water to cool off

But also: so deadly.

Without the necessary caution or the respect for the lakes, rivers and pools they deserve, tragedy can quickly replace a leisurely swim. It happens with alarming frequency, especially during these hot weeks and months.

Americans die of drowning every 10 minutes, according to a 2019 YMCA report, and one in five of them is a child. In addition, for every drowning child, five more are treated for injuries after being submerged in water. Overall, drowning is the second leading cause of death in children aged 5 to 14.

In addition, from 2005 to 2014, an annual average of 3,536 Americans died in non-boating drownings, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s about 10 deaths a day. Another 332 Americans die each year from drowning in boating-related incidents.

“It only takes a moment,” warns the American Red Cross in a leaflet on water safety. “A weak child or swimmer can drown in the time it takes to respond to a text, check a fishing line or apply sunscreen. Death and injuries from drowning occur every day in residential swimming pools and hot tubs; at the beach or in the oceans; on lakes, rivers and streams; and in tubs and even buckets.

Respect for water involves learning to swim. That’s the message behind “Make A Splash,” a national initiative of Olympic gold medalist swimmers and others who believe it’s never too early to start learning.

May was Water Safety Month in the United States

One concern of Make A Splash is the risk to children of color, as Linda Stein, editor of the Delaware Valley Journal in Pennsylvania, wrote in a commentary distributed last week by InsideSources.com. Black children drown three times more often than their white counterparts, Stein reported, citing USA Swimming and a 2018 study that found that 70% of African Americans cannot swim.

The reason? “Fear,” said three-time Olympic gold medalist Rowdy Gaines, according to Stein. “This fear is passed down from generation to generation, and it’s something that we (with Make A Splash) are trying to overcome in this community.”

Whether you can swim or not, these YMCA safety tips are good reminders, especially on hot weekends when the urge to cool off leads to a backyard pool, lake, or elsewhere.

  1. Never swim alone. Use the buddy system and remember, “Lifeguards don’t just watch people in the pool, lake or ocean. Their job is also to monitor the water and advise swimmers about safety issues and questionable conditions that may arise, ”as the YMCA reports. “They’re also trained to react quickly when something happens. “
  2. Parents, always supervise your children when they are in the water. Put your phone away and be vigilant.
  3. Do not play freediving games underwater. The risk of fainting is too great.
  4. Wear a life jacket. Things like water wings, floats, and pool noodles are flotation aids, not lifesaving devices. Even a Coast Guard certified life jacket is not enough. Wearing one is no excuse for ignoring water safety guidelines.
  5. Children, don’t jump to save a friend. Then you could both drown. Instead, use the “reach, throw, don’t go” Y technique, which involves using a long object to pull a struggling swimmer to safety.
  6. Enter the feet in the water first. Serious injury can occur from jumping or diving head first into water that is shallower than expected.
  7. Stay away from pool drains. Hair, swimwear, and even arms and legs got stuck in it, resulting in drowning or serious injury. If you notice that a drain is not functioning properly, report it immediately.
  8. Stay in designated swimming areas. There are likely falls or other hazards beyond the ropes or buoys.
  9. Don’t drink or swim. Alcohol impairs judgment, coordination and balance. This impairs the ability to swim well.
  10. Learn CPR. Accidents happen and passers-by are usually the first to react.

This weekend’s heat explosion was just the first this summer. We could be there for a scorching few months. By all means, refresh yourself. But do it safely – always.

This alternative view is the opinion of the editorial board of our sister publication, the Duluth News Tribune.

About William G.

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