Families get savvy about swimming and child safety

A family boards a boat at Cox Landing in Albany. / Jessica Fairley

As families head out to the pool or lake for Memorial Day, health professionals are stressing water safety.

According to information from the Southeast Health District Health Director Dr. Jacqueline Grant, around 10 people unintentionally drown every day.

That total includes two children 14 years old or younger.

Dr. Grant says learning the risks and taking safety precautions are proven ways to prevent drowning injuries and deaths.

The National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics warn that drowning can happen quickly; for children, in as little as an inch of water.

Fortunately, officials say there are action steps to take to reduce the risk of drowning.

Formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by as much as 88% among children aged one to four.

Karen Salary, with the Dougherty County Health Department, says when children are swimming, parents should be no more than three feet away and their full attention should be on that child; not engaging in social activities or on the cell phone.

Healthcare workers say it doesn't hurt to have a lifeguard or CPR trained person on hand. This is just in case an incident was to occur.

Other Public Health water safety recommendations include:

  • Swimming with a buddy, regardless of your age
  • Fencing off access to pools, ponds or other areas that present drowning hazards
  • Choose swimming sites with lifeguards whenever possible
  • Avoiding drinking alcohol before or during swimming, boating, water-skiing or when supervising children engaged in recreational water activities
  • Being aware of and avoiding drop-offs and hidden obstacles in natural water sites. Always entering water feet first.
  • Never using air-filled or foam toys such as "noodles" or inner-tubes in place of life jackets.
  • Never hyperventilating before swimming underwater. Never trying to hold your breath for long periods of time. These activities can cause swimmers to pass out (sometimes called "shallow water blackout") and drown.