Going for a swim this summer? Here are the tips water safety experts want you to know.

Going for a swim this summer

This article was original published by yahoo.com and can be viewed here.

What experts say about rip currents, dry drowning and puddle jumpers.

Pool parties, beach trips, lakeside getaways, river rafting, water parks — the summer is full of aquatic adventures. But with that comes being aware of the risks that water poses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the number one cause of death for children ages 1 through 4, with adults age 65 and older having the second-highest rate of drowning. Moreover, drowning deaths have sharply increased since 2019, with upwards of 4,500 victims between 2020 and 2022. And it’s also important to note that American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN) and Black populations have the highest drowning rates.

So how can we all stay safe around water? What should we all be aware of when it comes to swim safety? Here’s what experts say.

While many of us have grown up believing that a drowning victim will be splashing around in the water, yelling for help, Adam Katchmarchi, chief executive officer of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance (NDPA), says that’s actually what is called a “distressed swimmer.”

“A distressed swimmer is still able to support themselves in the water,” Katchmarchi tells Yahoo Life. “They can’t swim anymore, but they can tread water, they can float, they can call for help.”

A true drowning victim, Katchmarchi says, is in what is called the instinctive drowning response. “That’s a 20- to 60-second, life-and-death fight for survival where they can no longer support themselves in water,” Katchmarchi explains. “Most often they are going to be vertical, straight up and down, and that [also] goes for young children.” Once someone is underwater, he says there’s no guarantee they’ll re-emerge.

The ocean is full of harsh conditions like rip currents (sometimes incorrectly referred to as rip tides), and in fact, Katchmarchi says even large lakes have rip currents as well.

“The one thing we want [people] to understand is that the best swimmer in the world is not gonna be able to fight against a rip current,” he says.

Instead, he advises those who get pulled out by a rip current to stay calm, try not to panic, and begin swimming parallel to the shore. If you begin to feel tired, try floating and treading water to conserve energy until you’re close enough to the shore again.

CDC data shows that 40 million adults don’t know how to swim. While those adults may choose not to own a pool themselves, that doesn’t mean they won’t at some point find themselves near a pool or other body of water. Whether it’s due to an accidental fall or other situation (such as a flood), you never know when you might need swimming skills.

Most drownings occur when people who don’t know how to swim end up in deep water, but other causes include the use of drugs and alcohol while in and around the water, health issues (such as seizures) and even jumping in to save another drowning victim.

Furthermore, families should know that nearly 70% of toddler drownings occur during an unplanned or non-swim event, meaning they weren’t supposed to be anywhere near water. Though less common, some infant and toddler drowning incidents even occur in areas around the home such as in bathtubs, hot tubs, buckets and even doggy bowls.

According to the NDPA, 88% of child drowning incidents occur when there’s at least one adult present. But as any parent knows, it’s incredibly easy to become distracted for even an instant when disaster strikes.

“I can speak from experience because my child was found at the bottom of the pool,” says Mindy York, co-founder of Baby Otter Swim School, a Florida-based swim school in operation for more than 40 years. “I turned for one second. Next thing I knew I couldn’t find [my daughter]. She had literally walked down the steps at 17 months.”

York was fortunate in knowing to start CPR on her child right away and saving her, but some parents aren’t so lucky.

Katchmarchi says inflatable devices like water wings and puddle jumpers should never be considered a safety device as they can easily deflate.

“There’s nothing securing those inflatables to the child’s body,” he explains. “Oftentimes, if you have a child wearing water wings and they stick their arms straight up, they may just fall right out.” If families use them, Katchmarchi says they should only be used as toys for recreation.

And because there have been some instances in which puddle jumpers created a false sense of safety that resulted in a child’s accidental drowning, he advises parents to be aware of risks and use them only with supervision.

While there’s been some media buzz around this term, especially when it comes to children, dry drowning (or what is actually a “nonfatal drowning with medical complications”) isn’t a common occurrence.

“If a child comes up coughing after they inhale a little bit of water, most of the time that coughing reflux is going to fix the problem,” says Katchmarchi. “It’s going to be uncomfortable for a couple of minutes for the child and scary for [the parents] but nothing truly life-threatening.”

If complications arise, he says this would generally occur within a few hours after the nonfatal drowning incident and not after a day or two.

“What they really need to look out for is signs of respiratory distress: labored breathing, lethargic behavior, just being really tired,” he says. Additionally, it’s important to check lips and nail beds to see if they’re turning a bluish-purple color, which could indicate hypoxia and warrants a trip to the emergency room. “This is extremely treatable,” he adds.

  • Don’t swim alone, even if you’re a strong swimmer. York recalls an incident in which she herself had difficulty swimming, despite her experience, while having chest pains in the water. Her advice: Swim where a lifeguard (or other people) are present, and never let kids head to the pool solo.
  • Wear a bright swimsuit. This advice is commonly given for children’s swimsuits, but adults can also benefit from wearing bright colors (think neon yellow or red) that make it easier to spot if they should end up at the bottom of the pool. Avoid blues and greens that can be hard to distinguish in the water.
  • Start swim lessons as early as age 1. While it does not support infant swim classes and warns that lessons don’t make a child “drown-proof,” the American Academy of Pediatrics does recommend teaching children swim survival skills from age 1 on. “Children should be learning basic survival skills in the water, such as floating and being able to find air if they fall into water,” Katchmarchi says.