2017-07-13 / Editorials

This summer, swim safely

COMMENTARY /// Water safety

Cooling off in a pool, lake or ocean is a great way to beat the heat—but there can be danger.

Drowning is a leading cause of death in children under 14. One reason is that 70 percent of African American and 60 percent of Hispanic children don’t know how to swim, the USA Swimming Foundation reports. Minority children are also less involved in competitive swimming when compared to their white peers, comprising only 1 percent of USA Swimming membership.

Some of the reasons include:

Lack of swimming access. Facilities in traditionally underserved communities are few and far between and tend to be expensive.

Cultural constraints. Data shows there may be a legacy of fear, perpetuated through generations.

Parental perceptions. Adults who don’t swim may not know what needs to be done so that their children learn to swim safely.

For those who know how to stay safe in and around water, swimming can be a lifelong source of fun and exercise. Here are six things to know:

Never swim alone. Swim only when a lifeguard is on duty.

Supervise children whenever they are in or near water. Whether it’s a bath, the ocean or anything in between, stay within arm’s reach of the child at all times.

Don’t hold your breath too long. When swimming, children should avoid holding their breath for any length of time. This can lead directly to drowning and other severe physical side effects.

Wear a life jacket. Novice and non-swimmers should wear Coast Guard-approved life jackets.

Don’t jump in to save someone struggling in deep water. Even great swimmers can be overpowered by a panicked person and be pulled underwater. The YMCA teaches the “reach, throw, don’t go” concept of using a long object to reach for the swimmer and pull him or her to safety.

Enroll in water safety classes. Water safety classes are a good idea for all kids—and their parents.

Courtesy of North American Precis Syndicate.

Return to top