Summer is near and with the warmth will come the usual crowds who play and bask on lake beaches and in outdoor pools, and inevitably, some people will end up in emergency rooms – or worse.
If numbers from past years hold steady, about 10 people will drown this year in Richmond, Columbia and Aiken counties and the surrounding rural areas.
According to Georgia and South Carolina public health records, 65 people between the ages of 1 and 75 have died from drowning since 2007 region-wide. That’s an average of 10 people per year, with about 60 percent of the fatalities being men.
The good news is that drowning – the leading cause of injury death for young children and the fifth leading cause of unintentional injury death for people of all ages – is preventable.
To stay safe, experts recommend a number of precautions, such as learning to swim and never swimming alone.
Also recommended is that adults, especially those who are parents or who care for children, learn basic first aid and CPR, which can mean the difference between life and death.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends four-sided pool fences at least 4 feet high with self-closing, self-latching gates unreachable by children and that open outward on residential pools.
Note: Data for 2012 was not available, but local reports show at least seven people have drowned.
1. Learn to swim: Get formal instruction children ages 4 and older. Teens and adults should also learn to swim. Restrict children to wading or bathing in shallow water and only in the presence of a lifeguard.
2. Supervise children: Children should never be allowed to swim unsupervised. Research agencies report that drowning can happen in as little as 2 inches of water. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that most accidental drownings of children ages 1 to 4 occur in residential pools, and most of those victims were seen in the home fewer than five minutes earlier.
3. Look for lifeguards: When swimming in places other than residential pools, swim only when a lifeguard is on duty and in areas designated for swimming. Parents of young children and non-swimmers should watch their children even when a lifeguard is present.
4. Do not swim while intoxicated: Being under the influence of alcohol or drugs impairs judgment and coordination and increases the risk of injury or drowning.
5. Never swim alone.
6. Never swim during a thunderstorm.
7. Avoid diving headfirst: Do not dive headfirst into shallow or murky water or water of uncertain depth. Enter feet first as rocks and other objects can pose hazards.
8. Refrain from horseplay: Do not dunk, hang onto someone or allow anyone to hang onto you in the water.
9. Use proper flotation devices: Inflatable toys, rafts, air mattresses and water wings should never be used as lifesaving devices for children. Use only life jackets and life preservers approved by the U.S. Coast Guard. Always wear a life jacket when boating.
10. Learn first aid and CPR and use pool fences.
Source: Augusta Recreation, Parks and Facilities Department