By August of 2019, 64 children died in drowning accidents throughout the state of Texas. By October, that number swelled to 87 drownings. Living in one of the hottest states in the nation, Texans have developed a love for swimming and using pools to escape the summertime heat. So, learning how to prevent accidents help reduce the amount of drowning accidents that the state has at a nation-leading rate.
To combat drownings, we combined advice from the Texas Drowning Prevention Alliance with our own experience to make a list of 11 useful tips to make swimming safer for everyone. These tips aren’t just useful for pools; they should be utilized around any body of water such as a bath, lake, spa, or pond.
11 Ways You Can Prevent Drowning Accidents
TIP 1: SUPERVISE WHETHER PEOPLE ARE IN WATER OR NEAR IT
Always have an adult designated to watch a body of water, even if people are not using it. If needed, have adults take shifts watching a pool during a party to ensure that someone is always focused on anyone who might need help. If children under the age of four are near water, use touch supervision. This type of supervision means staying within arms reach of young children.
TIP 2: AVOID SWIMMING ALONE
Sometimes confidence can be deadly. Only swim if there are others nearby to help. Even the most confident and skilled swimmers are susceptible to accidents that can quickly turn deadly without help. If swimming in a public pool or lake, ensure that a lifeguard is on duty before getting in the water.
TIP 3: KNOW MEDICAL CONDITIONS OF SWIMMERS
If a swimmer has a known medical condition, such as frequent seizures, always watch them and provide adequate safety gear. Those who might suddenly lose their ability to swim should always have a lifejacket on in large bodies of water. Additionally, those with medical conditions might want to consider taking a shower in favor of a bath.
TIP 4: SWIM LESSONS SAVE LIVES
Providing children with swimming lessons can help decrease their risk of drowning by 88 percent. However, never use a swimmer’s training as an excuse to decrease supervision on them. Always watch swimmers, regardless of their swimming level. Additionally, always have barriers that are child-proof even if your children can swim.
TIP 5: USE SAFETY GEAR APPROVED BY COAST GUARD
Never rely on air-filled or foam devices as safety gear for children. These are toys and are not supposed to save lives. Instead, rely on safety life jackets and other equipment that have been approved by the U.S. Coast Guard.
TIP 6: ALCOHOL & WATER DON’T MIX
Drinking alcohol is never a good idea if the water is nearby or involved. The effects of alcohol can decrease coordination and the judgment of the most talented swimmers.
TIP 7: DON’T HOLD YOUR BREATH
While seeing how long swimmers can hold their breath might feel like a classic summertime game, it can be dangerous. When someone holds their breath for too long, they can pass out and drown.
TIP 8: LEARN CPR & BASIC FIRST AID
Learning cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can save someone’s life after a drowning accident. Someone can succumb to the deadly effects of drowning in the time it takes for emergency responders to arrive. So, knowing CPR can keep someone alive until professional help gets to the scene. Many cities and towns offer local courses that teach residents CPR and first aid techniques.
TIP 9: CHECK THE WEATHER
Never swim in windy conditions or thunderstorms. Lightning strikes make swimming incredibly risky, and high winds can create difficult conditions to swim in.
TIP 10: BE AWARE OF RIP CURRENTS AND TIDES
If you’re swimming in the ocean, it’s crucial to be aware of rip currents and tides. Rip currents are powerful, narrow channels of fast-moving water that can pull even the strongest swimmers out to sea. Know how to identify them and how to escape if caught in one (swim parallel to the shore until you’re out of the current, then swim back to shore). Additionally, be aware of the tidal schedule and avoid swimming during high tides or when the tide is rapidly changing, as this can create dangerous swimming conditions.
TIP 11: COMMUNICATE WITH LOCAL AUTHORITIES
Before swimming in a new location, check with local authorities or lifeguards about any specific hazards or regulations in the area. They may have important information about water quality, currents, wildlife, or other potential dangers that could risk your life. By staying informed and following the advice of local experts, you can significantly reduce the odds of drowning.
Protecting Children from Drowning
There are some steps you can take to specifically address drowning prevention and children.
The first and most crucial step to protecting children is ensuring that a pool has at least one person on duty who watches all child activity in the pool. Contrary to what the movies depict, people who are drowning are often silent and easy to miss—especially during a busy backyard party. Instead of screaming, drowning victims put all their energy into catching a breath, so you can’t trust that you’d "hear" your kids drowning. Having a designated pool watcher helps ensure that even a silent drowning is noticed.
To make watching a pool easier, arrange supervision shifts between different people. Even if a watcher needs to leave the pool area for less than a minute, they need to find someone to take over their responsibilities.
Additionally, all children who are unable to swim should wear flotation devices at all times they have access to water. Many holiday drowning accidents occur after meals, when adults remove flotation devices for the children’s comfort while eating. If possible, encourage children to keep wearing flotation devices while eating. However, if they insist on removing them, ensure that access to the pool is completely restricted until every child is wearing their flotation device once again.
Texas has the most child drowning accidents of any other state, and Arnold & Itkin has been covering this topic as the summer months heat up. In the last month, we’ve discussed how adult cellphone use is linked to child drowning. However, many parents don’t consider one thing about children when it comes to pool safety: studies have shown that children are naturally inclined to place themselves in dangerous situations.
WHY CHILDREN PLACE THEMSELVES IN DANGER
According to psychological research, children play with risk to learn about survival. Risky play is seen in all mammals. Adolescent goats jump down dangerous slopes and leap high into the air. Monkeys swing between branches that are too high and far apart for their comfort or safety. Chimpanzees allow themselves to fall from branches and catch a lower one just before they would hit the ground.
Why do these creatures do this? For survival. Mammals risk injury so they can learn to regulate fear and anger. Scientists refer to this practice as the emotion regulation theory of play. Through risky play, a young mammal can learn how to deal with fear when it’s a situation they cannot control. By risking their own life purposely, they learn how to protect themselves under pressure.
EMOTION REGULATION THEORY OF PLAY & DROWNING ACCIDENTS
Mammals like to take risks, and humans are no exception. Scientists have segmented the risks that children take into six main categories: great heights, rapid speeds, dangerous tools, dangerous elements, rough and tumble, and getting lost. When it comes to pool safety, the most important type of risk associated with humans is referred to as dangerous elements, such as deep water. So, when a child inexplicably walks toward a body of water, they could be entertaining an urge that is at the deepest core of who they are.
Because children are naturally prone to approaching bodies of water that could harm them, adults must take every step to ensure that bodies of water such as pools, lakes, rivers, and ponds are inaccessible to children without supervision. To protect children from themselves, they should never be left alone near water; pool fences create barriers that prevent accidents when no adult is nearby or watching.
Beach Safety: Navigating the Unique Risks of Open Water
Beach swimming presents its own set of unique challenges and risks compared to pool swimming. To ensure a safe and enjoyable beach experience, it is essential to understand the potential hazards and follow proper safety precautions.
Rip currents are strong, narrow channels of water that flow away from the shore. They can form at any beach with breaking waves and are particularly dangerous because they can pull swimmers away from the shore quickly.
To stay safe from rip currents:
- Learn how to identify rip currents by looking for a break in the wave pattern, a channel of churning water, or a line of debris or seaweed moving seaward.
- If caught in a rip current, remain calm and swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current. Then, swim back to the shore at an angle.
- Never try to swim directly against a rip current, as it can exhaust even the strongest swimmers.
Learn the tide schedule at the beach you are visiting. Swimming during low tide can expose hidden hazards like rocks and sharp shells, while high tide can make it difficult to return to the shore. Check local tide tables and plan your beach visit accordingly.
Some marine animals can pose a threat to swimmers. To minimize the risk of encountering dangerous marine life:
- Avoid swimming near fishing piers or areas where people are fishing, as these locations can attract sharks.
- Steer clear of jellyfish and other stinging marine creatures. If stung, seek first aid immediately.
- Shuffle your feet while walking in shallow water to scare away stingrays, which tend to hide under the sand.
General Beach Safety Tips
- Always swim with a buddy and within designated swimming areas.
- Observe beach warning flags, which indicate current water conditions and potential hazards.
- Pay attention to the advice of lifeguards and follow their instructions.
- Use sun protection, including sunscreen with a high SPF, sunglasses, and a hat, to protect your skin from harmful UV rays.
- Stay hydrated and avoid consuming alcohol while swimming, as it can impair your judgment and coordination.
By following these beach safety tips and staying vigilant about potential hazards, you can enjoy a fun and secure day at the beach.
The Hazards of Swimming in Cold Water
Swimming in cold water, whether it's in a lake or river, presents unique challenges and dangers. Understanding the risks associated with cold water and taking appropriate safety measures can help prevent drowning accidents in frigid water.
Hypothermia occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it, causing a dangerous drop in core body temperature. Cold water can rapidly lead to hypothermia, so it's essential to recognize the signs and take action:
- Shivering, which is your body's attempt to generate heat
- Slurred speech or mumbling
- Slow or shallow breathing
- Weak pulse
- Clumsiness or lack of coordination
- Drowsiness or low energy
- Confusion or memory loss
Cold Water Safety Tips
To minimize the risks associated with cold water swimming, follow these safety tips:
- Wear a wetsuit or drysuit: These can help insulate your body, keeping you warm and reducing the risk of hypothermia.
- Enter the water gradually: Allow your body to adjust to the cold temperature by entering the water slowly and avoiding sudden immersion.
- Stay close to the shore: In case you experience difficulties or need to exit the water quickly, swimming close to the shore is a good safety measure.
- Check the water temperature: Be aware of the water temperature before entering, and avoid swimming in extremely cold water.
- Know your limits: Be realistic about your swimming abilities and endurance in cold water, and don't push yourself too hard.
- Warm up after swimming: After exiting the cold water, change into dry clothes, wrap yourself in a warm blanket, and have a warm drink to help your body recover and restore its core temperature.
By being aware of the hazards of cold water swimming and following these safety tips, you can enjoy the unique experience of swimming in cold water while minimizing the risks to your health and well-being.
Even Adults Need to Be Protected from Drowning
Believing that adults are immune to drowning accidents is a dangerous assumption. Three out of four of those who drowned over the Fourth of July weekend were 17 or older. According to the Centers for Disease Control, alcohol use is a factor in up to 70 percent of adult drownings. Alcohol makes a person unable to properly balance, decreases coordination needed to swim, and impairs a person’s judgment to make safe decisions. If it is sunny out, the effects of alcohol can be more severe.
Factors that Influence All Drownings
Whether a person is a child or an adult, there are several factors that affect all swimmers. These factors might vary slightly from person to person but are essential to remember around the pool.
These factors include the following:
- Swimming Ability: Whether a person is a strong swimmer or just learning to keep their head above water, many drowning accidents are caused by too much confidence.
- Lack of Barriers: As noted above, pools should have limited access, which can keep individuals of all ages out of their area when needed.
- Lack of Supervision: Drowning happens quickly, so it’s best if a person ensures that they never swim alone.
- Location: Drowning happens for different age groups in different settings. For example, the most common drowning accident location for children aged one to four is private pools.
- Seizure Disorders: Drowning is the most common cause of unintentional injury or death for those prone to having seizures.
Pool Owners Are Legally Committed to Safety
If you or a loved one suffered from an accident at a pool, premises owners had a responsibility to prevent the incident. Since pools have inherent dangers, property owners are required to make sure they are mitigating dangers at all opportunities.
Arnold & Itkin is ready to fight for those suffering after a swimming accident. Our drowning accident lawyers have won billions of dollars for clients. We’re ready to make negligent parties provide answers for their behavior, so they never let what happened to you happen to someone else.
Call Arnold & Itkin today for a free consultation of your case at (855) 973-1519. Speaking with a member of our team is free, and we only collect a fee if we win results for you.