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July 5, 2006 > Be Safe While Swimming This Summer

Be Safe While Swimming This Summer

The rain has finally stopped and with summer sun comes thoughts of swimming. But before diving into a pool, lake or ocean, remembering the basic rules of swimming safety can help you have a fun and healthy summer season.

“Swimming is a wonderful sport, a wonderful recreation, but it poses the risk of injury,” says Dr. Frank Zeidan, an emergency medical physician at Washington Hospital. “No one starts the day planning to have an accident. No one thinks it will happen to their family or their friends, but accidents do occur. Drowning is the third most frequent cause of accidental death in the United States.”

Children under age four and teenagers are most frequently involved in swimming accidents. Vigilant supervision of children around bodies of water is critical to keep them safe from accidental drowning. Pool owners need to have complete enclosures around the pool and gates to prevent unsupervised access to the pool by young children. Pool owners should also be aware at all times who is in the pool area and who is swimming.

“Parents, coaches and supervisors have to be aware that drowning can occur quickly and silently. Don’t get distracted by social activities, phone conversations or chores. A child could be playing beside you one second and disappear from view the next,” Dr. Zeidan warns.

According to Dr. Zeidan, teenagers need to be aware of appropriate behavior around pools. Activities that a teenager may perceive as fun, such as running poolside on a wet deck or dunking their friends, can easily cause injury. Running around a pool, holding someone’s head under water, pushing another swimmer or jumping on someone is dangerous. Trauma or head injury incurred during these activities could impair a person’s ability to get out of the water if they feel they are in trouble. If drugs and alcohol are involved, the risk of injury or death is even greater.

“It is very important to educate everyone about pool safety and to be courteous to other swimmers who may not be as comfortable in the water,” Dr. Zeidan says. “Teenagers should be expected to behave in a safe manner around any body of water. We all have a responsibility to behave safely, be courteous and be aware of the risks.”

Dr. Zeidan encourages everyone to learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and to apply it if the situation requires it. If an accident occurs in the water, learn how to get the injured person out of the water quickly and maintain spinal immobilization. Call 911 right away. If a person is under water for any significant amount of time, transport them to the hospital to be evaluated by a medical professional. Even a person who says he or she feels fine may have an injury that could result in serious complications later on.

Usually with swimming comes exposure to the sun, which causes increased rates of skin cancer, skin aging and wrinkles. Dr. Zeidan advises that swimmers avoid swimming during the middle of the day when the sun is hottest and the ultraviolet rays are strongest. Always wear sunscreen, and put on a hat or try to find shade.

Swimming can also result in bacterial and viral contamination due to water-borne diseases that can spread from one swimmer to another. Food-borne diseases can also be transmitted through water, as well as hepatitis, E.coli infection and bacteria responsible for gastrointestinal illness. Proper hygiene and courtesy to others can help prevent illnesses from spreading. And don’t swallow any pool water.

“Everyone should expect the pool to be clean and safe,” says Dr. Zeidan. “Personal hygiene is very important. Take a bath or a shower before entering the water. If someone has a gastrointestinal problem, don’t go in the water. And hand washing is extremely important.”

For more information on children’s safety while swimming, visit http://www.safekids.org/tips/tips_water.html.

For more information on healthy swimming, visit http://www.cdc.gov/healthyswimming.

 
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