May is Nat’l Water Safety Month

May is National Water Safety Month. As “America’s swim instructor,” the YMCA teaches children of all ages and from all backgrounds that water should be fun, not feared, if you know how to stay safe in and around water. Unfortunately, the risks of drowning are tremendous and we want to share some important facts with the community in preparation for the summer season.  

  • More children ages 1–4 die from drowning than any other cause of death except birth defects. 
  • Drowning happens in seconds and is often silent. 
  • Drowning can happen to anyone, any time there is access to water.

While the reality of drowning statistics are alarming, there are several things that parents and caregivers can do to keep kids safe. There is not one isolated action that can prevent drowning, but we believe that if everybody is aware and recognizes the importance and urgency of being safe in and around water, that we can help keep our kids safe. The CDC recognizes the following as essential layers of protections to help keep kids safe in and around water.  

Learn basic swimming and water safety skills 

  • Formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning.
  • Children who have had swimming lessons still need close and constant supervision when in or around water. 

Build fences that fully enclose pools 

Supervise closely

  • Designate a responsible adult to supervise closely and constantly when children are in or near water (including bathtubs). You can assign a specific adult to supervise each child when they have access to water. Adults watching kids in or near water should avoid distracting activities like reading, using the phone, and consuming alcohol or drugs, because drowning happens quickly and quietly.
  • After swim time is over, shut and lock doors that give access to water. Be proactive and learn about any risks when visiting another home or unfamiliar location. 

Wear a life jacket 

  • Life jackets reduce the risk of drowning while boating for people of all ages and swimming abilities. Life jackets should be used by children for all activities while in and around natural water. Life jackets can also be used by weaker swimmers of all ages in and around natural water and swimming pools. Do not rely on air-filled or foam toys, as these are not safety devices. 

Learn CPR 

Know the risks of natural waters 

  • Lakes, rivers, and oceans have hidden hazards such as dangerous currents or waves, rocks or vegetation, and limited visibility.8 Check the forecast before activities in, on, or near water. Local weather conditions can change quickly and cause dangerous flash floods, strong winds, and thunderstorms with lightning strikes. 

Avoid alcohol 

  • Avoid drinking alcohol before or during swimming, boating, or other water activities. Do not drink alcohol while supervising children. Alcohol impairs judgment, balance, and coordination. 

Use the buddy system 

  • Always swim with a buddy. Choose swimming sites that have lifeguards when possible. The buddy system is especially beneficial for people with seizure disorders or other medical conditions that increase their risk of drowning.

Take additional precautions for medical conditions 

  • Provide one-on-one supervision around water, including swimming pools, if you or a family member has a seizure disorder. Consider taking showers rather than using a bathtub for bathing. Wear life jackets when boating. Other medical conditions such as autism or heart conditions are also associated with a higher risk of drowning.

Consider the effects of medications 

  • Avoid swimming if you take medications that impair your balance, coordination, or judgement. These side effects increase the risk of drowning. Several medications can produce these side effects, such as those used for anxiety and other mental health conditions.

Don’t hyperventilate or hold your breath for a long time 

  • Do not let swimmers hyperventilate before swimming underwater or try to hold their breath for long periods of time. This can cause them to pass out and drown. This is sometimes called “hypoxic blackout” or “shallow water blackout”.

We hope that everybody takes water safety seriously. Prevention starts with education. We can work together to help drowning prevention.