HCN News & Notes

ER Physician Issues Water-safety Tips

WARE — Summer is officially here. As temperatures rise many look for fun ways to cool off and stay active. Water activities like swimming, diving, canoeing, boating, and water skiing, offer relief during these hot summer months, but it’s important to remember many injuries can happen during recreational water activities.

“When we think of water safety, we generally think of swimming pools,” said Dr. Richard Romano, Emergency Department staff physician at Baystate Mary Lane Hospital. “But there are many other places where water safety should be practiced.  It’s important to remember that drowning can happen anywhere there is water including swimming pools, ponds and lakes and even in the presence of lifeguards.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every day, 10 people die from unintentional drowning. Of these, one in five are children ages 14 and under.

“Drowning is a quick and silent killer,” said Romano. “The majority of children who drown in swimming pools were last seen in the home, had been out of sight for less than five minutes, and were in the care of one or both parents at the time of the drowning. In the time it takes to cross the room for a towel (10 seconds), a child in the bathtub can become submerged. In the time it takes to answer the phone (two minutes), that child can lose consciousness. In the time it takes to sign for a package at your front door (four to six minutes), a child submerged in the bathtub or pool can sustain permanent brain damage.”

“The best way to prevent drowning is through the “touch supervision” technique, which means being within an arm’s length of the child at all times, able to reach them and pull them from the water immediately,” said Romano. “Remember also that inflatable aids such as water wings and tubes are not substitutes for adult supervision and that swimming lessons are an important step, but they do not make a child “drown-proof.” Teach children about the importance of always being with an adult and always swimming with a buddy.”

Children are not the only ones that need to practice water safety, adolescents and adults do too.  According to the CDC, drowning is the third most common cause of accidental death among those under age 16.

“Young people who drown are often victims of their own misjudgment of their swimming ability,” said Romano. “They may view a river or a lake as a tempting means of cooling off in a hot spell, but fail to appreciate the harmful effects that the cold water can have on stamina and strength.”

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