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Tips for staying safe around waterr
Health advice
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There is something about being around water that is soothing and diminishes stress. Even with loud laughter, motors gearing up and horns honking, we can still derive pleasure and relaxation from the presence of water.
Despite its relaxing properties, drowning is still the second most common cause of death from injuries among Americans under the age of 24. Each year, more than 7,000 drowning deaths occur in the United States. For every child who drowns, four more are hospitalized when they nearly drown and for every hospital admission, four other children are treated in hospital emergency rooms.
Drowning can be a quick, silent way to die. People have been known to die in less than two minutes after their head goes under the water. In the 10 seconds it takes to cross the room for a towel, a child in the bathtub can become submerged and that child could lose consciousness if not taken out of the water in two minutes.
 The following safety precautions are suggested around pools, lakes and rivers:
1. Pay attention to local weather conditions and forecasts. Stop swimming at the first indication of bad weather.
2. Never leave a child alone near water, pool, beach or the tub. A tragedy can occur in seconds. If you must leave, take your child with you. When around water, stay close and maintain constant eye contact. Never leave a child unattended, even for a second and never assume someone else is watching your child. If you don’t see them, check the water first then check other locations.
3. Never swim alone. Always swim with a partner. Make sure a lifeguard is present when swimming in a pool or at the beach. Supervise children closely, even when lifeguards are present.
4. Swim in supervised and designated swim areas only. Stay out of the way of springboard divers and obey all rules and posted signs, such as “no diving” signs that indicate an area is unsafe for swimming or headfirst entries. If you don’t know the depth of the water, enter feet first. Select a swimming area in a river or a pond that has good water quality and safe, natural conditions. Murky water, hidden underwater objects, unexpected drop-offs and aquatic plant life are hazards.
5. Don’t mix alcohol and swimming or boating. Alcohol impairs your judgment, balance and coordination, affects your swimming and diving skills, and reduces your body’s ability to stay warm.
6. Do not chew gum or eat while you swim. You could easily choke.
7. Use common sense about swimming after eating. It’s wise to wait an hour after eating a large meal before you swim.
8. Always wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life vest in an ocean, river or lake. Georgia law mandates children ages 9 and younger must wear a Coast Guard type I, II, III or V PFD vest when on a boat or personal watercraft. The maximum fine for not complying is $1,000. Even good swimmers can become tired or get too cold to swim well. Don’t rely on floatation devices, such as rafts, as they may be lost in the water.
9. Should you fall into the water or get caught in a river current when swimming, float on your back with toes up out of the water and your feet pointing downstream to fend off any obstacles.
10. If caught in a rip current, swim sideways until free, don’t swim against the current’s pull and don’t try to stand in a moving current. Swim parallel to shore if you wish to swim long distances.
11. Know your swimming limits and stay within them. Don’t try to keep up with a stronger, more skilled swimmer or encourage others to keep up with you. If you are in trouble, call or wave for help.
12. Be sure rafts and docks are in good condition without loose boards or exposed nails. Never swim under a raft or dock.
13. Always have a first-aid kit and emergency phone contacts handy. Parents should be trained in CPR.
14. Teach your children these key swimming rules that include:
√ Always swim with a buddy.
√ Don’t dive into unknown bodies of water. Jump feet first to avoid hitting your head on a shallow bottom.
√ Don’t push or jump on others.
15. When boating, don’t overload the boat.
16. Remember that children, especially younger ones, can drown in as little as one inch of water. This puts them at risk of drowning in buckets or diaper pails as well as in wading pools, spas or hot tubs.

Ratcliffe works with the Coastal Health District.
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