Summer water safety reminders

If you're heading to the lake, ocean, or swimming pool this summer, keep water safety in...

If you're heading to the lake, ocean, or swimming pool this summer, keep water safety in mind. Drowning is the second leading cause of death in children younger than 15, according to the Center for Disease Control, and nearly half of these victims die within four yards of a parent. Watch your children closely if they're playing in or near the water. Drowning takes less than a minute, and victims can't call out for help. Teach kids to look out for each other and be sure that they understand the importance of water safety.

Whether you're swimming with kids or adults this summer, make sure that everybody in the water is a strong swimmer or wears a life jacket. Watch everyone in the group closely for signs of trouble, and remember that drowning in real life looks very different from drowning on TV. Here's what to look for.

  • People who are drowning are trying--and failing--to keep their noses and mouths out of the water. They will be low in the water with their mouths just above or just below the surface or with their heads tilted back.
  • For this same reason, drowning people are usually in a vertical position. They may look like they're trying to climb an invisible ladder, roll onto their backs or swim without getting anywhere. Usually--but not always--their feet hang below them without kicking.
  • Watch for closed eyes or blank stares, which could be signs of panic in the water. If a person's hair has fallen across his or her face without trying to move it, that may also be a warning sign.
  • Drowning people don't scream for help because their bodies are too busy trying to breathe. If the person is suddenly quiet, they may be in trouble. This is especially true of kids. Ask if the child is okay; if he or she does not respond, it's time to act.

If you see any of these drowning signs, get to the person quickly. You may have only seconds to recognize danger and rescue your drowning friend or family member. Because alertness and quick reactions are so important, keep alcohol consumption moderate.

This is particularly true if you're boating this summer. If you wouldn't drink and drive a car, you shouldn't drink and drive a boat. Boating accidents are a common cause of drowning, and alcohol is often a factor. Make sure that everyone on board wears a life jacket just in case, and follow all Coast Guard boating safety rules.

Boating, swimming and other water activities are great ways to cool off and have fun this summer. Just remember to put water safety first and check out your local swim school if you or your family members need lessons. In general, children who are at least five years old will benefit from swimming lessons. Consult your Atlanta-area doctor if you'd like to enroll a child between the ages of one and four.

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