By Karen Cortés
Pools across Connecticut are opening every day, and beaches are full of families ready for a break from the heat. Swimming is a healthy activity for people of all ages, but can also be a hazard when participants don’t have strong swimming skills or take to the water unsupervised.
Drowning is the leading cause of death of children under five, and Latino and African American children are even more at risk of drowning than their white peers. According to a USA Swimming study completed by the University of Memphis’ Department of Health and Sports Sciences, 31 percent of the white respondents could not swim safely, compared to 58 percent of African American respondents. The non-swimming rate for Latino children was almost as high — 56 percent.
Experts at the YMCA of Greater Hartford encourage parents to make sure that every member of the family can swim, regardless of race, or whether a family lives one block for 50 miles from the water.
Mike Kerrigan is the aquatics risk manager for the YMCA of Greater Hartford. Kerrigan says that the greatest water safety assurance comes from adopting and practicing as many water safety measures as possible. “Parents should stay alert and always stay within arm’s reach of children, and learn and practice water safety skills,” says Kerrigan. “Discuss water safety before anyone sets foot in or near the water—and regularly over the course of the summer.”
He suggests that adults prepare to respond to an emergency by knowing how to perform CPR, and having the appropriate equipment to stay safe near water.
Water safety rules are for everyone:
- Remind your children that they should never swim alone, whether they are novice swimmers or junior Olympians.
- Be sure everyone in your family knows to respect fellow swimmers by not roughhousing, pushing, or touching others in or near the water.
- Watch the kids– and teens, too. Limit the number of rafts and other floatation devices in the pool. They can obstruct your view, especially of small swimmers.
- Choose swimming areas with professional lifeguards on duty, but remember that you are the best line of defense for your kids.
- As tempting as an afternoon drink is on a hot summer day, you lessen your ability to think and act quickly in an emergency.
Preparing your family for water safety can ensure that your pre-schooler doesn’t panic when he or she slips underwater, that you ten-year old knows better than to dive into shallow water, that your teenager will think twice about slipping off to swim in an unsupervised watering hole, or that your adult child doesn’t drink and swim.
Swimming lessons are essential to saving lives. Lessons are available through many municipal and community centers, including the YMCA of Greater Hartford, or your local Y, which offer swim lessons for all ages, including parent and child classes, water safety, and certification classes. For more information, visit ghymca.org.
(Photo by John Yavuz Can via Flickr)