Water Safety Saves Lives

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August 1, 2017

Summer just wouldn't be complete without lazy hours spent splashing around in front yard sprinklers, neighborhood pools, and the state’s many creeks, lakes, and rivers. When it's hot outside, a little water makes everything better.

Kids get particularly excited around water, and in that excitement, they can accidentally hurt themselves or drown. We are only half way through the summer months, and so far 56 children in Texas have drowned. Of those 56 tragic deaths, 31 children drowned in a pool, 17 drowned in a natural body of water such as a river or lake, and 8 drowned in the bathtub. If the past is a predictor for the future, these numbers will get higher.  In 2016, Texas lost 107 innocent lives; we are on track to surpass that total.

Every drowning death is preventable, every single one.  Kids should never be left unsupervised around water, and all residential pools should have fences around them. Toddlers are sneaky escape artists, and they have been known to slip out of houses and fall into backyard pools without anyone ever knowing. If you have a pool in your backyard, you should consider installing a fence and gate with a self-locking latch. Additionally, you can make a pool less attractive to young children by keeping all toys out of the water and away from the pool's edge when the children are not actively swimming. Even children who know how to swim can make mistakes, and if they fall into a pool, the weight of their wet clothes can pull them under.

Unfortunately, Hollywood has given the general public a false sense of security about drowning. Often, movies and TV shows show a person splashing and screaming for help as they are drowning. This portrayal gives the audience the mistaken belief that they'll be able to easily spot a person drowning. The truth is: drownings are silent. Most people who drown never scream for help; most people who drown never splash around. According to the CDC, in 10 percent of drowning occurs within 25 yards of a parent or supervising adult, the adult will actually watch the child do it, having no idea it is happening. A person who is drowning will typically be vertical in the water, their lips bobbing up and down at the surface level. Their eyes will be glassy or shut, and they will likely be hyperventilating or gasping for air. Children who are playing and safe in the water are loud; they make noise. If a child is quiet in the pool, get to them and see if they are ok.

Bathtub drowning is perhaps the most tragic. These victims tend to be less than a year old, and most cases involve parents who succumb to distraction and step away for mere moments. Babies, even those who can sit up and stand unassisted normally, struggle in a bathtub. The water makes everything slippery, the weight of their head makes them more likely to fall completely over, and a few inches of water is enough to cover their faces. When giving a baby a bath, put the phone in a separate room. Resist the urge to check Facebook or text message with friends. If you need to leave the room for any reason, take the baby with you. A few minutes of wrangling a wet baby is far better than a lifetime of regrets.    

Playing in water is a great way to cool down on a hot and sunny afternoon, but adults must be vigilant. Don't assume young children will be smart around a pool, and don't leave a child alone in the water for even a few minutes. With a little bit of caution, we'll all have a happier and safer summer.