As millions of Americans beat the heat and lounge at the lake to cool off from the hot summer sun, safety officials are reminding parents of how quickly an ordinary day at the beach can turn into a nightmare when they're not keeping a close watch on their children.
According to newly released analysis from Safe Kids Worldwide, 784 children in 2014 tragically drowned in water-related accidents. Of these, 66% happened between the months of May and August.
Kate Carr, Safe Kids Worldwide President and CEO, noted that the most worrisome aspect of drownings is that they can happen in an instant.
"Drowning is silent and quick," Carr warned. "Far too many of our sons and daughters are drowning. We need to get the word out to all parents to debunk the common and persistent misconceptions that can lead to drowning."
Among children ages 1 to 4, drowning is the most common form of unintentional injury-related fatalities, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Emergency Physicians. Of those who are fortunate enough to survive their trauma and are successfully treated by emergency physicians, 50% need long-term care or must stay in hospitals for days, if not weeks, to fully recover.
"While it's impossible to predict and prevent every scenario, you can take steps to protect kids, stay safe and still enjoy the water," said Jay Kaplan, M.D., ACEP President.
Safe Kids Worldwide offered the following tips to help parents separate fact from fiction about swimming safety:
1. Myth: I'll be able to hear splashing if my child is in danger.
Reality: Drowning is known as the silent killer for a reason: it can happen with little to no warning. When you're keeping an eye on your kids while they're in the pool, ocean or lake, take the term literally and be ever watchful of what they're doing. If you're reading a book, be sure to look up regularly to see what's happening.
2. Myth: A lifeguard standing watch frees me from responsibility.
Reality: Lifeguards are a hallmark of public swimming areas, but their attention may be distracted because they have to monitor a large area with numerous people. In short, their charge is ensuring that everyone follows the rules. Be your child's own personal lifeguard by monitoring their whereabouts.
3. Myth: Swimming lessons always reduce the risk of drowning.
Reality: There's no denying that swimming lessons are a smart investment. But they're not necessarily fail safes. Safe Kids Worldwide noted from a study that of 5- to 17-year-olds who drowned, over 40% were believed to be capable of keeping themselves afloat before the tragedy happened. In other words, swimming instructions give kids the tools they need to become better swimmers, but it takes time for them to become self-sufficient.
4. Myth: If I head inside for a minute or two, there's nothing to worry about.
Reality: What may seem like a millisecond of inattention can be a lifetime when kids are struggling in the water, whether due to physical exhaustion or falling into the water accidentally. If you have to step away for a bit, have someone replace you while you're occupied. Alternatively, have your kids come out of the water so everyone can take a break.
For more tips on swimming safety, along with some interesting facts that you probably weren't aware of – like how fencing is the most common barrier that breached when pool-related drownings occur – you can download the Safe Kids Worldwide report. It could be your most important summer read of the season.