Canadians love spending their summers in the water whether it be by cooling down in the backyard pool during harsh heatwaves or by taking full advantage of their favourite lakes before heading back into our arctic Canadian winters. Just like any other scenario, we must be aware of what possible accidents can occur near water sources.
Drowning is the third highest cause of accidental deaths in Canada killing hundreds of Canadians from 1 to 60 years old every year. It is also the number one cause of preventable deaths in children under 4 years of age. The key word here is preventable, meaning that with proper safety precautions, many of these deaths could have been avoided.
Preventing Water-Related Deaths One Swim at a Time
Water-related deaths can affect anyone which is why it is important to know how to keep yourself and your loved ones out of harm’s way. Beaches, lakes, rivers, public or private pools, and even bathtubs all present drowning hazards, especially for small children. The following guidelines will help you minimize any water-related dangers that can occur.
1-Swimming Lessons & Water Safety Rules
From a young age, children should all take swimming lessons before ever getting into a pool on their own. These lessons will teach them how to properly hold their breath, get in and out of pools, how to act with other children to avoid rough play and decrease their chance of drowning. The risk of drowning for a child who falls into a pool or ventures too far out at the beach is extremely high if they do not know how to swim. In addition to lessons, it is important to establish and teach safety rules to your children when around water such as no diving in shallow areas, no running around the pool, no rough-housing or swimming alone, etc.
2-Keep an Eye on the Kids
Whether or not your child can swim, they must remain under adult supervision at all times. 53% of drowning deaths in children 5 years and under occur in a momentary lapse of attention from the adult in charge. Water as shallow as a few centimeters such as in a bathtub or a children’s pool can lead to the death of a small child if left without supervision. Unlike what we may think, drowning is often completely silent and they can easily go under without making a sound to alert you of the danger they are in.
3-Know CPR and First Aid
There will not always be a lifeguard or medical professional nearby to respond to a crisis situation, therefore it is important to know how to intervene when someone is in need. Knowing how to perform CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation) on both children and adults as well as knowing first aid can keep someone alive until medical help arrives. Even though they may be unconscious, performing CPR can rid their lungs of inhaled water and potentially be lifesaving. For your own safety, do ensure that you have someone around you that is also properly trained if ever you happen to be the one in need.
4-Flotation Devices & Safety Equipment
If you have a pool in your backyard or are a boat owner, make sure to have quick access to flotation devices and a first aid kit order to respond to any potential accidents. Having a phone nearby to call for help is also an important safety measure. For all backyard pools, it is best to have a locked surrounding gate to ensure that nobody can get into the pool without supervision of the responsible adult. For boat owners, make sure that everyone on-board is wearing a life jacket and to have the children wear child-size life jackets as adult-sized ones are not suitable for them.
When at the beach, there are a multitude of other factors to take into consideration in addition to your usual water safety habits. Even if there are lifeguards on-site, make sure to watch your friends and family and check in with them often. If someone is unusually quiet there may be something wrong. Checking the weather conditions before going in the ocean as well as checking for warning signs around the beach will also indicate whether or not it is wise to swim. When approaching open water, it is best to be mindful of your body and its limitations such as your strength and swimming abilities. Most importantly, consider the strength of ocean waves and rip currents and understand how they work. An old adage amongst professional surfers to “ never turn your back to the ocean” may one day be lifesaving. It is a reminder to never underestimate the force of a current as they can easily drag someone out to sea causing them to tire and drown. If you get swept up by a current, do not panic. Swim horizontally aligned with the shoreline, not against the current. Once you are out of the pull, swim back towards the beach diagonally.
All in all, going to the beach or just relaxing by the backyard pool should always be a pleasant experience full of memories with friends and family. Being aware of possible dangers before they occur will ensure that everyone stays happy and safe. As the Doctors at Cardiogenix say, “Even though skydiving seems more dangerous than swimming, you are far more likely to die near or in water than skydiving. Why? Because you prepare more and take greater precaution before jumping out of a plane. Approach water with the same respect you would skydiving.”
If you are not yet certified for CPR or first aid, or if you have a teenage child that is not yet certified, we highly recommend looking into the courses offered by your municipality as everybody should know how to react in life threatening situations.
Stay Safe Everyone!