Make a splash for the right reasons

  • Wednesday, July 2, 2014

McIver

Itís the Fourth of July week, and area residents and vacationers are flocking to the pool, the ocean, and the rivers and lakes that are so abundant in our area.

And why not? Riding the waves or tubing on the river is fun, refreshing and free. But being in the water or on the water can be deadly for an inexperienced or overconfident swimmer.

According to the American Red Cross, 54 percent of all Americans either canít swim or donít have complete basic swimming skills. That is why the Red Cross is launching a national campaign to cut the drowning rate in half over the next three to five years by teaching 50,000 people in 50 U.S. cities how to swim. Myrtle Beach, which has a drowning rate more than double the national average, is one of the selected cities.

National statistics show that residential swimming pools account for most drownings of children between the ages of one and four. Most drownings of those 15 years or older occur in lakes, rivers or the ocean.

The most appropriate age for a child to begin swimming lessons is between the ages of three and five, before a child develops fear of the water. That doesnít mean an older child canít overcome fear or that an infant or a toddler canít learn basic skills either.

And it doesnít mean that adults canít learn. In fact, adults owe it to themselves to learn not only for the sake of their own safety and conditioning, but also for their children and grandchildren. After all, children who grow up in a family with parents who donít swim are less likely to learn how to swim.

Even if youíre an accomplished swimmer, you should heed basic rules around water.

Below are some tips from the Relax and Swim web site that I urge everyone to practice:

Always swim with another competent swimmer. Always have someone on land close by and watching you.

When a child is swimming or playing near water, an adult must be at armís reach and watching at all times. This means no reading, chatting on the phone or drinking alcohol. Keep a phone handy.

Do not assume that water toys such as water wings, mattresses and other plastic inflatables are life preservers! Use only a Coast-Guard-approved life preserver.

Empty pools should never have tempting toys in or near them.

All pools need a 5-foot fence around their four sides. Gate latches must be taller than a child and must self-close and self-latch.

Do not use drugs or alcohol before or during swimming, boating or water skiing.

Know the water depth before jumping or diving in. Recommended minimum depth is 9 feet.

Never chew gum or eat while in water. Both are a choking hazard.

Know how to use cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Robert McIver is aquatics manager at HealthPoint Center for Health and Fitness, part of Georgetown Hospital System, and teaches swim lessons to infants, children and adults.

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