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Keeping your head above water

Advice for swimming safely

Maks Niedzwiedz, 7, of Putnam was making quick progress under the guidance of lifeguard Renee Skaggs during the first session of swim lessons held at Alexander Pool in Princeton on June 5.
Maks Niedzwiedz, 7, of Putnam was making quick progress under the guidance of lifeguard Renee Skaggs during the first session of swim lessons held at Alexander Pool in Princeton on June 5.

PRINCETON — Enjoying water, whether it's in a pool, pond, river, lake or creek, has always been a popular, if not the most popular, summer activity. Playing in water is fun, but there's also danger beneath the surface, and safety must be considered.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there's an annual average of more than 3,000 fatal, unintentional, non-boating related drownings in the United States. About one in five drowning victims are children 14 and younger.

For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency care for nonfatal submersion injuries. More than half of those treated in emergency rooms require hospitalization or continued care. Nonfatal drowning injuries can cause severe brain damage which can result in long-term memory loss, learning disabilities and a permanent loss of basic functions.

Nick Davis, recreation and aquatics coordinator for the Bureau County Metro Center, shared some advice on how to keep swimmers safe.

"Swimming is a great recreational sport that can be enjoyed by people of all ages, but it's important to know how to be safe. An important tip I like to stress is always swim with a buddy; don't allow anyone to swim alone," Davis said.

Drowning happens quickly, so constant supervision must be maintained. Swimming should be done in designated areas, and although lifeguards may be present, it's still important to watch your children.

"Avoid distractions when children are around water, please don't cruise Facebook," Davis added.

According to the American Red Cross, children who have drowned were often out of sight less than five minutes and under the care of one or both parents at the time of many home pool drownings.

The most important thing for all family members to know is how to swim well. The Princeton Park District offers American Red Cross certified lessons at various times throughout the year.

In the event of an emergency, every second counts. Be sure everyone in your family knows when and how to call 911 and also how to perform CPR. When performed by bystanders, it's been shown to save lives and improve outcomes in drowning victims. The more quickly it's started, the better the chance of a positive result.

For more Red Cross safety information visit www.redcross.org.

Make water safety a priority

• Swim in designated, supervised areas.

• Always swim with a buddy; don't allow anyone to swim alone, even at a public pool or beach with lifeguards.

• Ensure everyone in the family can swim well.

• Never leave young children unattended near water and never trust a child's life to another child.

• Teach children to ask permission to go near water.

• Have young children or inexperienced swimmers wear Coast Guard-
approved life jackets around water.

• Establish rules for your family and enforce them.

• Set limits based on each person’s ability, don't let anyone play around drains and suction fittings and don't allow swimmers to hyperventilate before swimming under water or have breath-holding contests.

• Even if not planning on swimming, be cautious around natural bodies of water including shorelines.

• Avoid alcohol use, it impairs judgment, balance and coordination; affects swimming and diving skills; and reduces the body’s ability to stay warm.
• Protect your skin with regularly applied sunblock and limit exposure to both sun and heat.

• Stay well hydrated

• Install and use barriers around your home pool or hot tub. Safety covers and pool alarms should also be added as additional layers of protection.

• If you have an above-ground or inflatable pool, remove ladders and secure the cover when the pool is not in use. Remove any structures providing access, such as outdoor furniture, climbable trees, decorative walls and playground equipment.

• Maintain constant supervision, don't just drop children off at the pool or leave them at the beach. Designate a responsible adult who will avoid distractions and supervise them closely.

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