Heading to a beach, lake, river or pool this holiday weekend? Officials at the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services caution swimmers to take steps to ensure water safety, including keeping a close watch on children and young adults and avoiding rip currents at the coast.
Drowning deaths among young children often happen when children access pools without supervision or when adults are distracted. These were the findings of 12 swimming pool drowning deaths of children ages 1 to 7 investigated by the North Carolina Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in 2018.
“These deaths are tragic and preventable,” said Susan Kansagra, M.D., Chief of the Chronic Disease and Injury Section of the Division of Public Health. “Now is the time to take simple steps to prevent drownings wherever you and your family or friends gather for water recreation activities.”
For pool security, close and lock or latch gates or doors every time they are used. Never prop a gate or door open. Remove or lock ladders when above ground pools are not in use. For pool safety, monitor all children around pools. Designate one responsible adult for every five children in the water. Unlike the flailing depicted on television or in movies, a drowning child is more likely to slip silently underwater, which can be barely noticeable until it is too late. More details available at www.safekids.org/other-resource/water-watcher-card.
Along the North Carolina coast, there have already been more than six drownings this spring related to rip currents. Coastal communities post signs to alert beach goers about conditions.
“Swimmers should always observe warnings about rip currents and other potential hazards,” Dr. Kansagra said. “When swimming in ocean waters, never swim alone and choose areas of the beach where lifeguards are on duty.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) offers tips for surviving rip currents here. If you get caught in a rip current, remain calm to conserve energy, do not fight against the current, but try to swim out of the current in a direction parallel to the shoreline. When out of the current, swim toward shore.
The U.S. Forest Service has more tips for those planning to visit waterfalls, rivers, lakes and streams at https://www.fs.fed.us/visit/know-before-you-go/water-safety.