Myths About Drowning and Water Safety
A day at the pool or the beach or boating on the water is a favorite recreational activity. While they’re all wonderful ways to spend leisure time, they can become places of heartbreak and disaster in just seconds.
Drownings are a leading cause of injury and death for young children ages one to fourteen, and three children die every day due to drowning. Drowning kills more children ages one to four than anything else except birth defects. It’s only fun if everyone is safe.
Sadly, misconceptions persist. Are you water safe? Do you know what drowning looks like? The chances are good that it doesn’t look like what you think it does. Make sure you know the facts to keep everyone safe.
Myth: Drowning is noisy. I’ll hear my child (or anyone) splashing and struggling in time to help.
Fact: Despite what you may have seen in movies, in real life drowning is silent and can happen quickly. This is a particularly dangerous myth when it comes to young children. They can’t figure out what to do, such as right themselves or stand up, even in a few inches of water. As a result, they can just “slip away” in silence.
Myth: Floats and water wings will keep children safe.
Fact: Pool toys may keep children afloat, but they also give a young child an illusion of safety, thinking they can jump in at any time, and they’ll be fine. Pool toys, including floaties, are not life-saving devices. A Coast Guard-approved life jacket is the best water safety device for any swimmer, but none of these things should ever be used in place of direct adult supervision.
Myth: Once children learn to swim, they don’t need life vests.
Fact: At swimming pools and supervised swimming areas, an older child who swims well may not need to wear a life vest. However, parents may also need to make that judgment. Some public or resort pools require that children take a swimming test, but often it’s up to the parent. Children need to be good swimmers. The drowning risks increase with steep banks, at rivers or docks, at places where the water is swift, dark, and cold, and rescue becomes much more challenging.
When boating, rafting or tubing, or swimming in open water like a lake or a river, adults, and children should always wear properly fitted United States Coast Guard (USCG) approved life jackets.
Myth: As long as there’s a lifeguard nearby, my child will be safe.
Fact: A lifeguard is scanning the entire area, not just watching your child. You still need to watch your child at all times when he or she is in the water. It takes only 60 seconds for an adult to drown and only 20 seconds for a child to drown.
Myth: Kids are safe in a wading pool or shallow water.
Fact: Children can drown in inches of water, and a child can become submerged in water in as little as two minutes. The absence of adult supervision is a factor in nearly all child drownings, including those in shallow water. Strong currents can drag kids (and adults) into open water very quickly in the ocean or rivers.
Myth: You should always jump in the water to save someone.
Fact: The American Red Cross advises reaching out to them from the side or throwing them something to help them stay afloat (like a life ring). Jumping in may present a risk to you if a panicked person takes you down. If someone is unconscious, you’ll have to go in. However, even experienced swimmers can find it tough to pull someone out of the water.
Myth: You don’t have to worry about drowning when there are lots of people around.
Fact: It’s not recommended that anyone swim alone, although there’s no real safety in numbers. Unsupervised kids drown in crowded pools, in part because drowning is usually silent with no screaming or warning calls. According to the Red Cross, 90 percent of drowning deaths occur within 30 feet of safety.
Myth: I don’t live or vacation near the water, so I don’t need to worry.
Fact: Water hazards are everywhere, including in and around every home. Toddlers have drowned in five-gallon buckets, garden ponds, and even toilet bowls. Keep young children out of the bathroom except when directly supervised, and don’t leave buckets or barrels where they can gather water. Always stay in the bathroom with young children each minute they are in the bathtub. A baby’s or toddler’s bath can be a life or death situation and should be entrusted only to adults.
Unintentional drowning is preventable. Protect yourself from the devastating consequences of losing a child or loved one due to drowning.
Follow the Safer 3 and use layers of protection: proper safety barriers, constant arms reach supervision and learn to swim. Learn more about drowning and prevention programs and use our Water Safety Checklist to keep your family safe