Lifestyle expert and former lifeguard Ann De Souza shares expert tips to keep your family safe in the water this summer.
ANNA DE SOUZA: Every day, about 10 people die of unintentional drowning, and as a former lifeguard, swim and CPR instructor, I understand the nuances of water safety, and here's what you need to know to keep your family safe. First, how can we recognize that someone is drowning? Unlike what you see on TV, drowning can happen quickly and quietly. Look for a weak or inefficient kick, bobbing up and down, and attempts to grab something to hold on to.
Drowning people tend to grasp and dunk their rescuers out of panic, and the goal is to help them without imperiling yourself. The United States Lifesaving Association recommends tossing anything their way that floats, whether it be a life jacket, a pool noodle, a pole, or even an empty cooler with the lid on.
Adults should not be involved in any distracting activity like reading, talking on the phone, or mowing the lawn when they should be watching children, even if there's a lifeguard present. Lifeguards and water safety experts agree inner tubes, foam toys, and swimmies offer a false sense of security. Always choose a life jacket approved by the US Coast Guard. There are different classes of life jackets for weight, age and activities, so make sure you read the label.
Among children ages 1 to 4, most drownings happen in home swimming pools. Consider options like pool fencing and alarms to prevent unsupervised access. Among adolescents and adults, alcohol use is involved in up to 70% of water-related deaths. Drink responsibly, stay hydrated, and take breaks in the shade often.
In ocean environments, over 80% of rescues are due to rip currents with most of these incidents happening to stronger swimmers. What many people don't know about rip currents is that they don't pull you under the water, they pull you away from shore. The best advice here is to stay calm. Swim parallel to shore and float on your back to conserve energy.
According to US coast guards recreational boating statistics in 2018, there were 633 deaths on our nation's waterways. If you're leaving the boat to swim, make sure to secure its location with an anchor and attach ladders beforehand. But understand that in very deep water, the anchor may not hit the bottom so you always want to wear a life jacket. If your boat capsizes, you should stay with the boat and try to climb on top unless it's being carried to a dangerous place like a dam or a waterfall.
The bottom line, folks, I recommend professional swim and CPR lessons for everyone. These skills are priceless and can save lives. Above all else, have a plan, be safe, and definitely have fun.