By PETTUS READ
As summer’s soaring temperatures bring out water-lovers to cool themselves by splashing about in local swimming holes, concern also increases about water safety. I enjoy just watching others and avoid the depths of water, but my grandkids love the summer treat of a trip to the swimming hole.
I can remember as a child, heading to the creek with my favorite inner tube to spend an afternoon floating during the “dog days” of summer. My swimming ability was not the best, so I floated mainly in areas where the water was only waist deep, but at times that was even dangerous if a water snake decided to join me.
Water can be fun, but also should be respected. It only takes a few moments for an unattended child or a non-swimmer to drown in the shallowest body of water. The National Center for Health Statistics reports that over 390 children in the United States lose their lives to drowning accidents each year on the average. This alarming statistic puts drowning as one of the leading causes of unintentional injury-related deaths among children less than 15 years of age.
As I read these statistics, it brought back the bad memories of the two-day search my family went through many years ago looking for a six-year-old cousin of mine who had wandered off from the family farm. His body was found late in the afternoon in the farm pond, where he had accidentally slipped.
My wish is that no family should go through that ordeal and the only way to prevent it is to follow safety practices everyday around water. Rural children face the highest danger of drowning, at three times the rate of urban children, due to the availability in the country of farm ponds, irrigation ditches, rivers and lakes. Children under the age of four and those between 15 and 19 years of age face the most risk of drowning.
The National Farm Medicine Center reported a few years ago that for every child who dies as a result of drowning, there are three to four children who are hospitalized in near-drowning incidents. Boys seem to be the ones who need extra care when it comes to dangers around water. Among children under the age of 20, one in every 1,098 males will drown and one in 301 will be hospitalized for a near drowning; while one in 3,333 females will drown and one in 913 will be hospitalized for a water-related injury.
It is very important to supervise children around bodies of water. That includes everything from lakes to bathtubs. Most children who drown are out of sight of supervision for less than five minutes. It is important to always know where your children are. Although the statistics are pretty frightening, parents can help ensure the safety of their children with common sense and by following water safety guidelines.
Use barriers/fences around pools, ponds and other hazards, such as manure storage structures, to prevent unsupervised child access.
Supervise children near water and other drowning hazards. Avoid other activities, such as reading or talking on the telephone, when you are supervising.
Teach your children to swim and learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
Avoid swimming in natural bodies of water after dark. Also, use the buddy system when swimming or boating.
Growing up, I was told a poem about some children asking their mother if they could go swimming. It seems the mother knew the ability of her children, and after saying they could go, the last line of the poem quoted the mother as saying, “Leave your clothes on a hickory limb, but don’t go near the water.” That's the best advice in the world if you can’t swim.
-- Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation.
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