Health Beat with Dr. Alicia Arnold: Swimming Safety

By: Lindsay Veremis Email
By: Lindsay Veremis Email

Courtney: With summer just around the corner, many families have plans for the beach and pool. Today we are going to talk about ways to stay safe while enjoying the water. How serious of an issue is drowning?

Dr. Arnold: While many Americans think they can swim, according to a recent survey from the Red Cross, only about half can perform the five basic skills that could potentially save their life in the water. Drowning is the leading cause of injury death in children ages 1-4.

Courtney: What are a few tips to help parents keep their kids safe at the pool?

Dr. Arnold: Never let anyone swim alone. An adult should always be closely supervising children swimming, and not distracted with other tasks such as taking care of another child. It’s best to keep the child at arm’s length so you can grab them quickly if needed. Warn your kids not to get too close to drains or suction sources in the pool. Knowing CPR is an important skill that could potentially enable you to save someone’s life.

Courtney: Are there a few additional tips if a viewer has a pool at their home?

Dr. Arnold: A four-sided fence around the pool is essential. It is recommended that the fence should be at least 4 feet high. There should also be a self-closing and self-locking gate. It’s also important to be cautious around the pool chemicals. About 5,000 people went to the emergency room in 2012 because of pool chemical injuries. Nearly half of these were children and teenagers.

Courtney: What are some warning signs of drowning?

Dr. Arnold: Drowning doesn’t look as dramatic as many people picture it to be. Children have drowned with adults nearby when the adults didn’t recognize the signs of drowning. Rather than screaming and splashing like it is shown in the movies, drowning children tend to be very quiet. Their heads may be low in the water with mouths open at water level. The head may be tilted back with hair over the forehead and eyes glassy-appearing or closed. They may just appear as though they are looking at the sky or the pool deck, but they could actually be drowning. Ask your child if they need help, and if they do not immediately answer, you may only have seconds to get to them.

Courtney: What if a child nearly drowns but then seems to be fine?

Dr. Arnold: This is a really important point. Anyone who has a near-drowning experience needs to have a complete medical exam right away, even if the child seems fine. It is critical to make sure that there is no damage to the lungs or nervous system.

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