Guest column, Maria Baumgartner: Protect your children in and around the water during summer fun

It’s second nature to use SPF 30 sunscreen to protect ourselves and our families from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Most of us know the dangers that too much sun can cause: skin damage, eye damage, and skin cancer. There is also another danger to be aware of this summer: water.

I hope this column will help make drinking water practice second nature.

In the last Memorial Day vacation across Georgia, there were three drownings and one boat fatality according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. One of these incidents occurred on Lake Lanier. Let’s discuss some simple tips and tricks that can keep your family safe this summer, whether at home or on vacation.

Dive into water safety

It is not easy to talk about these facts below, but I would like to educate you because awareness is the key to saving lives.

  • Did you know that babies most often drown in buckets, toilets and bathtubs? Young children should never be left unattended in the bathroom, even if they appear to be caring for them without help.
  • Drowning can occur in seconds in just two inches of water.
  • Of those who survive a near-drowning, 5-10% end up with long-term disability due to severe brain damage.
Keeping Our Children Safe

Although the youngest have the most supervision around the water, toddlers are the age group with the most accidental drownings – with 69% of all drownings occurring with children under 4 . access to water.

First and foremost, watch children around any water source, even in the bathroom. Tubs can be lined with plastic bath mats that suck into the tub to prevent slipping, and toilets and / or bathrooms should be fitted with child locks to prevent entry.

Also consider taking swimming lessons from an early age. Kids can start swimming lessons from the age of 1 – and it’s fun! All children are different, so when deciding if your child is ready to start swimming lessons, ask your family doctor.

Next tip: Avoid consuming alcohol when actively supervising children. Impaired judgment and / or slow response time can make a huge difference if something goes wrong.

If you own a pool or have a spa at home, they should be fenced for added security. When installing a fence around water, it should be at least 4 feet high.

When choosing a portal, choose one that closes and locks automatically. The ideal would be to have a swimming pool alarm.

Keep in mind that swimming pools tend to be filled with floats, noodles, and toys that make young children reach out and try to grab them. After a day in the pool, be sure to clean up anything that floats or rests on the bottom of the pool.

Pool drains are easily overlooked. Drains have powerful suction systems and it is easy for small appendages to get stuck. Children’s water wings or arm floats can easily slip off the arms and can easily be punctured.

These devices prevent children’s arms from moving freely and may prevent the child from learning to swim properly.

The unique dangers of Lake Lanier

We are fortunate to have Lake Lanier in our backyard. As fun as it is, it presents unique dangers.

Always have your children wear a life jacket, have constant supervision and stay in designated swimming areas. Remember that water wings, noodles, and inner tubes are not life jackets! These are toys and not designed for water safety.

When children jump off docks, boats, or water’s edges, it is important to teach them to jump with their feet first rather than their heads first, as water depths are unpredictable and there may be objects hidden under the surface. Make sure to check if there are any signs on the area, and it’s a good idea for an adult to take a swim test to check things out.

It goes without saying, don’t swim alone, whether you are an adult or a teenager. Use the buddy system.

If you find yourself in a water-related emergency, call 911 immediately. One of the most important take-home messages I want you to understand is to familiarize yourself with CPR. The most effective way to improve drowning outcomes is to begin CPR as soon as possible – even before calling 911, CPR should be initiated if possible. Artificial respiration and chest compressions help return oxygen to the brain and prevent brain damage and death. You can ask your family doctor for resources to sign up for a free class in your community.

As more and more of us in the community step out to enjoy the summer activities, these simple tips can really help keep everyone safe.

Share this article with your family and friends and remind each other to take a break before starting your fun summer splash. Enjoy a healthy and safe summer.

Dr. Maria Baumgartner is part of the Northeast Georgia Health System’s Family Medicine Resident Program. The columns publish monthly residents of the program.


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Daniel Lange

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