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At the water's edge

Keep this in mind when swimming

Chances are, you'll spend time near a body of water at some point in your life. Whether it's a pool, lake, river, or the ocean, the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) offers the following tips to stay safe External Site near water:

  • Supervise young children. They must be watched at all times when near water. It takes only a little water and a matter of seconds for a child to accidentally drown when an adult turns away. 
  • Learn to swim. Formal swimming lessons can help prevent all people, but especially young children, from drowning. It’s never too late to learn.
  • Learn CPR. It can take paramedics several minutes to arrive. Having CPR skills can mean the difference between life and death or permanent brain damage.  
  • Use the buddy system. Always pair up when swimming, and only swim in areas that have lifeguards on duty, if possible. 
  • Avoid alcohol. Drinking alcohol while on a boat or swimming in the water can severely impair a person's judgment. Never consume alcohol while supervising children around water. 
  • Use life jackets. When on a boat, make sure the number of (Coast Guard-approved) life jackets matches the number of passengers, and that they are easily accessible. Young children should have a life jacket on at all times when on a boat or in the water.
  • Do not use air-filled or foam toys as safety devices. These toys are not substitutes for life jackets and are not designed to keep swimmers safe. 
  • Know weather conditions. If strong winds or heavy thunderstorms and lightning are rolling in, get out of the water and find shelter immediately. 
  • Watch for waves and rip currents near the ocean. If you're caught in a rip current, swim parallel to shore. Once free of the current, swim toward the shore.
  • Be safe around pool chemicals, like chlorine. New statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that between 2015 and 2017, there were around 14,000 U.S. emergency department visits due to pool chemical injuries External Site. About one third of these injuries were in children. Make sure that chemicals are stored properly External Site and steps are taken to handle them correctly.

Drowning fast facts

  • Every day, about 10 people die from drowning.
  • Potentially half of all boating deaths might be prevented by the use of life jackets.
  • Drowning is the second-most common cause of accidental death in children ages 1 to 14 (just behind motor vehicle accidents).
  • Drowning was the leading cause of death from an injury for those 1 to 4 years of age.

"If you're at the pool and someone is missing, check the water first. Every second counts. If you suspect a swimmer is struggling, ask. If that person is unresponsive or responds with a blank stare, immediate help is needed."

Molly Charley, director of aquatics at TrailPoint Aquatics and Wellness

Do you know what drowning looks like? Know these signs to think like a lifeguard and prevent water accidents.