Food and fireworks abound this holiday week and though we see a lot of both in the Lowcountry when we celebrate our nation’s independence, there is something that we will see a lot more of – water. We live surrounded by beaches, lakes, marshes and rivers. For many of us, it is the water that draws us in.
During the Summer season, we see boaters, fishermen and swimmers with cuts from oyster shells, bad sunburn and heat-related illnesses – all issues that can be avoided with the proper precautions. But one of the things we dread most is getting a call about a recreational water accident, near-drowning or drowning.
We all know water safety is important, but still more than 10 people drown a day in the U.S. according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This summer I urge you to make water safety a top priority.
- Prevent unsupervised access to the water. Young children should not be left unsupervised at any time near any body of water. That includes large fountains. Watch them every single minute maintaining constant supervision. It is that simple.
- Swim in designated swimming areas only with lifeguard supervision
- Swimming in a natural body of water is different from swimming in a pool and requires more skills and energy due to currents, water temperatures etc.
- Old or young, weaker swimmers need to wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets whenever they are in, on or even just around water. Do not rely on “water wings” or inflatable toys.
- If you live on a river or marsh or own a home pool or hot tub, have appropriate equipment on hand such as reaching tools or ropes, life jackets and a first aid kit. It is also important for those who live or vacation near water or enjoy water sports to know what to do in an emergency.
- If a person is missing, check the water first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability. Thousands of near drownings annually cause brain damage.
- Have access to a cell phone and call 9-1-1.
- When the person is located in the water, reach out to him using any available object that will extend your reach.
- Brace yourself to keep from losing your balance and falling in.
- Do not get into the water unless you are a trained professional, or unless the water is shallow. If the water is shallow put on a life jacket, wade into the water and reach toward the person with a pole, branch or flotation device.
Summertime should be a carefree, relaxed season whether you are on vacation or live in the lowcountry. So, be it using sunscreen, wearing shoes, or doing the sting ray shuffle, using common sense goes a long way toward ensuring summertime fun.
Some resources to swim lessons in the Charleston area can be found on the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission website
By Dr. Daniel McMahon, a Roper St. Francis Physician Partners board certified family medicine physician