Guest Columnist

Know what drowning looks like

A 2-year-old girl jumps into her father’s arms during a swim session at City Park Pool in Iowa City in 2014. Safety experts caution parents to begin exposure to water safety early. (Gazette Archives)
A 2-year-old girl jumps into her father’s arms during a swim session at City Park Pool in Iowa City in 2014. Safety experts caution parents to begin exposure to water safety early. (Gazette Archives)

When the summer heat hits, many of us head to our favorite swimming spot. Amid the splashing kids and many distractions of a busy waterfront, fun can quickly become a risk.

According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, in 2016, unintentional drowning killed 31 Iowans.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that drowning takes about 4,000 lives in this country every year and it’s the number one cause of accidental death among children under five. It can happen in seconds, and children who drown often are out of sight for less than five minutes, according to a Safe Kids Worldwide report.

Coupled with its speed, drowning often looks different from many people realize. There may not be any splashing or cries for help.

Drowning rarely looks like it is portrayed on TV, with dramatic screaming and flailing. It is quicker and quieter than we realize.

A person in trouble may have their head above water one minute and be submerged the next, without anyone noticing.

Here is some additional advice on how to help reduce risks associated with drowning and help keep kids splashing safely.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Pay attention — Constant surveillance is absolutely critical. Don’t get distracted in a book, a chat or a call.

The CDC advises that those watching preschool-age children in the water provide “touch supervision,” which means being close enough to reach the child at all times. That’s true even if a lifeguard is present.

Assign responsibility — People often assume that someone else is doing the supervising, so it’s important to be very intentional about who is watching each child. If you will not be present to watch your own child, pick a point person and assign responsibility. If kids are in the water, make sure they use the buddy system, especially when there is a group of mixed swimming abilities. Consider matching up experienced swimmers with those who may be less skilled.

Provide swimming lessons — Start exposure to water safety early. Children as young as 12 months should be taught basic lifesaving maneuvers.

Anything that gives them a little bit of extra time to breathe, like flipping over on their backs, floating and moving through water, can save their lives.

This can be a challenge in colder environments, but many recreation and community centers offer low-cost or free indoor lessons geared to kids’ attention spans.

Obey warning signs at beaches — Pay attention to color-coded signs that alert you to riptides and dangerous weather. You can’t always see the currents in open water, and cold temperatures can lead to hypothermia, which shocks the body and leads to rapid exhaustion.

Keep floats away — It may not be a good idea to use rafts, inner tubes and water wings in open water.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Floats can give children a false sense of security. They’ll jump farther and higher and faster and become overconfident in their swimming abilities.

Use certified life jackets when doing water sports like kayaking and boogie boarding.

• Dr. KellyAnn Light-McGroary is UnitedHealthcare’s chief medical officer in Iowa.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

CONTINUE READING

Want to join the conversation?

Consider subscribing to TheGazette.com and participate in discussing the important issues to our community with other Gazette subscribers.

Already a Gazette or TheGazette.com subscriber? Just login here with your account email and password.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.