DROWNING can happen in a matter of seconds. It can happen silently and in as little as two centimetres of water.
The summer holidays are looming. As a mother to a four-year-old child, I felt it was imperative to take time to educate myself on the dangers associated with water and how to ensure we all enjoy a fun, yet safe, holiday this summer. This is what I discovered.
The summer months mean family holidays, so parents need to be extra vigilant with children around water, whether it’s a paddling pool in the garden, a trip to the beach or splashing in the swimming pool on a holiday abroad.
According to a report by the World Health Organisation in 2014, drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide, accounting for 7% of all injury related deaths. Boys are two times more likely to drown than girls and the most vulnerable are children aged one to four years.
On average, 133 people die from drowning every year in Ireland. This death toll is more than two thirds of that on all Irish roads. I’ll admit, I was frightened by this statistic. Young children, need to be reminded that they are not to get into the water without a parent or adult present.
If someone is drowning, there is very little splashing. There may be no waving, yelling, or calls for help, which is why vigilance is key. Therefore, young children should never be allowed to swim alone or engage in boisterous behaviour that might result in injury or drowning. It is important to reinforce water rules before going to the pool or the beach.
Teaching a child to swim is a vital skill. Swimming is a great hobby that enhances a child’s physical and mental well-being and is a skill they can carry into adulthood. But, above all, it is a necessary step in ensuring safety in the water. If a child learns basic safety techniques like treading water, getting to the side of the pool and holding on, these techniques could save a child’s life if they get into a spot of bother in water.
Floatation devices on holidays are not a replacement for adult supervision. Close supervision is necessary. Ensure that floatation devices are the correct size for your child and that it is fitted correctly. It is preferable to use a float jacket, woggle or fin, rather than arm bands, as armbands can easily pop off or be pulled off. Practise using devices before use in a pool or at the beach. It won’t take too much time to do this and could prevent an injury in the water or drowning.
Summer holidays mean days out to the seaside. Whilst we all want to have fun, where there is water, there is a potential for danger and risk of injury. Irish water safety work to educate people to prevent drowning and water related accidents. The website, www.iws.ie, is a great educational resource that everyone can use to educate themselves about water safety.
Taking five minutes to study the flags on the beach when the whole family clambers out of the car with the paraphernalia needed for a great day out by the sea can help keep everyone safe in the water. Study the signs on the beach and check the flags. Never swim when a red flag is flying. If it is safe to swim, only swim between the red and yellow striped flags. A black and white checkered flag means if is safe to surf.
Don’t be shy to approach the lifeguards on the beach and ask their advice. They will know where the safest places to swim are. Certain beaches may have rip tides and swimming should be avoided in these areas. As waves travel from deep to shallow water, they will break near the shoreline.
Where waves break strongly in some locations and weakly in others, rip currents are formed. These currents are narrow, fast-moving belts of water that travel offshore. To identify these types of current, look out for a channel of churning or choppy water, an area of water that is a different colour, a line of foam, seaweed or debris moving steadily seaward or a break in the incoming wave pattern. If caught in a rip current, do not fight the current. If you cannot escape to swim to shore, float or thread water.
If you need help, call for assistance. The international signal for calling for assistance in water is to make a fist with one hand and put your fist straight into the air. This signals to the lifeguard that you are in trouble.
If you do see someone struggling in the water, jumping in yourself is a last resort. After calling for help, simple rescues are preferable. Staying calm can help the person panicking in the water while you attempt a simple rescue such as, talking the person towards you, reaching towards the person while you lay flat on the edge near the water, throwing a ring buoy, throwing a rope or piece of clothing, using a branch to pull someone in, throwing a floatable bag to the person so they can hold on to it while you wait for assistance. You should only jump in if simple rescue methods fail or if a baby or toddler is in distress.