Water Safety: Keep You and Your Family Safe This Summer

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Water Safety: Keep You and Your Family Safe This Summer

Summertime in Michigan is all about being outside… splashing in backyard pools, fishing on the lake, and relaxing on the beaches of Lake Michigan. While spending time in and near the water is fun, it is important to keep safety top of mind – especially when you have kids.

A health article from John Spitzer, pediatrician at Bronson Primary Care Partners

How Big is the Problem?

Photo of John Spitzer.

John Spitzer, MD, FAA
Pediatrics, Primary Care

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 236,000 people drowned in 2019. In fact, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional death in children ages 1–14 years old in the United States.

Another alarming statistic: 50% of near-drowning victims who survive require hospitalization and/or transfer to long-term care for physical, occupational and speech therapies. Many of these victims end up with long-term brain damage including memory problems, learning disabilities and/or permanent loss of basic life functioning.

  • Children ages 1-4:
    • 1 out of 3 accidental deaths are water-related.
    • The most common site for drownings are at a backyard pool
  • Young adults, ages 15+:
    • Most drownings happen in nature, like at a lake, river or ocean.

Another interesting statistic about drownings are that nearly 80% of those who die from drowning are male, and are commonly related to high-risk behavior. Additionally, alcohol use amongst adolescents and adults is responsible for about 70% of water-related deaths. Alcohol impairs our balance, coordination and most important, our judgment.

Some Advice

So how do we stay safe around water while still enjoying outdoor fun? Take a layered approach: educate ourselves and our children, and take necessary precautions to reduce avoidable risks.

From teaching kids to swim at a young age, to having a fence around a backyard pool, there are many steps we can take to be more safe around water. Below are are some tips from American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) website, healthychildren.org, and from the AAP patient education handouts.

Water Safety at Home

  • Do you have a pool, pond or lake in your backyard? Have deadbolts on all doors that lead to the water. Make sure latches are high enough where only adults can reach.
  • Never leave your child alone in the bathtub, even if it is for just a few seconds.
  • Empty water from containers when you are done with your cleaning projects.
  • Install locks on toilets so they remain closed. Toddlers can get theirs heads stuck in the toilet if they are curious about that water.

Other water hazards found near homes where you may want to keep a close eye on your child include canals, ditches, postholes, wells, fishponds and fountains

DID YOU KNOW? Children with a seizure disorder are at high risk of drowning. The most common cause for an unintentional injury to children with a seizure disorder is drowning, with the bathtub being the most common site.

Water Safety at the Pool

  • Child supervision is key! Never leave children alone near a pool.
    • If the adult in charge of watching a child in the pool needs to take a break, verbally hand-off care to another adult.
  • Get your child swim lessons. As the parent, you can decide when it is best for your child to take those lessons based on their development. It is also important to note that swim lessons should not be viewed as “drown proof” for any child.
  • Talk to your kids about diving. Diving head-first into shallow water is dangerous. As a general rule, teach them to get into unknown waters with their feet first.
  • No running near a pool. Tripping and falling near water can be dangerous, particularly on concrete pavement.
  • Install a fence that is at least 4 feet tall around all four sides of a backyard pool. If possible, have the gate disconnected from the house.
    • The gate to the pool should open out from the pool and have a self-close and self-latch that children can’t reach.
    • Children can be tricky and fast, so think about installing window guards on windows facing the pool and reconsider using pet doors that can have access to the pool.
  • Always have rescue equipment on hand. Choose equipment made of fiberglass or other material that does not conduct electricity.
  • Have approved life jackets that are age/size appropriate. Avoid using “floaties” as these are not a substitute for life jackets and create a false sense of security.

Water Safety in the Open Water

  • Never swim in the open water alone.
  • Avoid diving into the water, as you often can’t tell how deep the water is.
  • If a riptide catches you, remain calm and do not fight the current. Allow the current to take you out until you feel it has ended. Then swim parallel to the beach line and eventually turn in towards the beach.

Boating Safety

  • Wear a life jacket! A properly-fitted life jacket should be warn at all times when boating, riding a personal watercraft, fishing, water skiing or just playing in a river or water stream.
  • Be careful where you swim. Avoid swimming around anchored boats, motorboat lanes or open water where people are waterskiing, tubing, etc.

In Case of an Emergency

Unfortunately, accidents can happen. Make sure you are always prepared for an emergency with these tips:

  • Learn CPR. This is an important life skill, especially if you live near water.
  • Keep pool safety and CPR instructions by the pool side. Make sure they are easy to find, and keep them in a water-safe bag or have them laminated so they don’t get destroyed by the outdoor elements.
  • Always have a phone near a pool, and teach your children how and when to call 911.
  • Make sure rescue equipment is readily available. At a pool, this can include a shepherd hook, rope and a safety ring.

About the author

Dr. John Spitzer is a pediatrician at Bronson Primary Care Partners in Texas Corners. He is accepting new patients now.

“I am thankful every day to be a pediatrician. I enjoy being able to work with kids. They are honest, sometimes silly, and always bring pure sweetness. They are deserving of the best care and compassion that I can provide.”

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