Nothing beats hanging out by the water during hot, lazy summer days.
It’s easy to feel free and relaxed. And you should.
But it’s also important to remember the hard facts, that more people die from drowning in Ontario than anywhere else in Canada. Certain groups are at increased risk, especially two to four-year-olds, adults 60 and over, people who have lived in Canada for five years or less and men 18 to 49-years-old.
As most people connected with BIST know, surviving a near-drowning doesn’t guarantee things will be easy from then on. Brain damage can occur after the body has been deprived of oxygen for four to five minutes, which makes water safety a crucial component of summer-fun.
Here are some tips to remember when you’re out:
- Two to four-year-olds are the highest risk group for drowning in the under-five age bracket, and these drownings usually occur near the water. The problem: curious little ones fall into water (such as an outdoor pool) they’ve wandered into in the brief moments their parents aren’t looking. Adults aren’t paying attention, because no one is actually swimming, they’re just near the water. Lack of adult supervision is the biggest risk factor that leads to young children drowning.
- Young and mid-life men are at increased risk of drowning, particularly due to these at-risk behaviours: consuming alcohol while out in the water, not using a PFD (personal flotation device) when boating, going out in cold, rough waters and being out after dark. Another risk factor: going out on the water alone.
- New Canadians, especially folks who have been in the country for five years or less are four times more likely to be unable to swim than people born in Canada. Meanwhile, most people in this group consider swimming to be a very safe activity for themselves and their children.
- Older adults can be at-risk of drowning if they suffer a medical condition while in the water, such as a heart attack. They may also be at risk if they do not modify activities they did when they were younger, such as swimming across a small lake, that they’re no longer able to do. At the same time, not wearing a PFD, consuming alcohol while out on the water and going out alone are all risk factors which lead to drowning.
It’s important to reminder that drowning is a quiet, hard-to-notice event.
A young child can silently slip under the water in the bath, something a parent in another room wouldn’t notice. And most drowning victims can’t call out for help.
This video shows someone drowning in a crowded swimming area, while no one but the lifeguard notices:
Here’s how to stay safe:
- Watch kids all the time – especially when you’re near water but not necessarily swimming. That means if there’s a party at the beach or a pool, someone should be ‘assigned’ to watch the young children at all times. Take shifts, so everyone can have grown up fun and keep the kids safe.
- Don’t swim or boat alone.
- Wear a life jacket every time you’re in a boat.
- If you’ve consumed drugs or alcohol, don’t go in the water.
- Little kids who are not strong swimmers should wear PDFs.
- Kids under five should not be further away than an arm’s reach from an adult.
Learn how to swim!
Learning how to swim is one of the best things you can do to keep you and your family safe in the water. Free or low-cost lessons are available from the City of Toronto – including lessons for adults. So dive in (safely) and have fun!