LISBON - Summer fun may have gotten an early start at your house if you have a pool. It's been hot already. Swimming is good, clean fun, and healthy activity, too. But tragedy can happen in just one little moment when your back is turned.
"Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death for U.S. children 1-4 years-old," says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). More than half of emergency room visits between 2005 and 2009 were related to swimming accidents and were in the 1-4 age group.
The CDC study reports that "each year [2005-2009] an average of 3,880 persons were victims of fatal drowning, and an estimated 5,789 persons were treated in U.S. hospital's emergency departments for non-fatal drowning." Mostly children drown in swimming pools.
Other high risk swimmers are males because "they are more likely to overestimate their swimming ability, choose higher risk activities or use alcohol." Some statistics state that "the drowning rate of African Americans is three times that of whites."
Drownings can occur anywhere there is water: ponds, lakes, creeks, rivers, the ocean, storm sewers, pools and spas, bathtubs, buckets, toilets. Many people who drown are alone in the water at the time of the incident. Of drowning over age 14, about half are associated with alcohol and/or drug use.
"To prevent drowning," advises the CDC, "all parents and children should learn survival swimming skills."
Additionally, attend to environmental protection, common sense, and rescue.
Your pool should be surrounded by a four-sided fence-one wall should not be the house--that isolates the pool and makes access more difficult. Remember, children can climb a chain link fence. Have a plan. And use self-closing, self-latching gates as part of the enclosure. Maintain the hardware so it is always working properly. Install alarms that can be heard in the house: on the gates, in the pool to detect when something or someone falls into the water.
Even when lifeguards are on duty, parents should supervise their children's pool activities. When someone has a medical condition such as diabetes, heart problems or a seizure disorder, use extra caution to keep them safe. Don't drink alcohol because it slows reaction time and affects balance and judgment. Everyone should recognize a drowning person when they see one and what to do and NOT to do to rescue them.
Some other recommendations include:
NEVER swim alone. If you are alone and get in trouble, there is no one to know where you are or what is happening. Learn how to lower your risk if you are in trouble in the water.
Keep emergency equipment handy and know how to rescue someone who appears to be drowning.
Block pool and hot tub access from unsupervised children.
Don't leave toys in the water.
When having a social event, designate watchers for the pool activities.
Beware of drains. Cover them and keep hair away from them.
When checking a pool for a missing child, completely remove the solar cover.
Swimming lessons are important. Contact your local community pool or the Salem Community Center for information.
For information about preventing drowning, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=regiBUDs-s0.
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