Here at New Milford Fitness & Aquatics Club, we feel very strongly about the importance of learning to swim – for both its health benefits as well as safety. Water safety skills can be taught early, even at age 1. Not only can learning to swim teach you how to save your own life, but it can also help you save others’ lives!
THE IMPORTANCE OF WATER SAFETY
You may be aware of the water safety campaign recently launched by Morgan Miller and Nicole Hughes. Over the summer, Morgan and Bode Miller (former alpine skier and Olympic and World Championship gold medalist) lost their 19 month old daughter Emmy to a drowning accident, and on the same day, Nicole Hughes and her husband, also lost their son, 3 year old Levi, to a drowning accident while on a family vacation. The two families have banded together to talk about water safety in a very public forum, in hopes that raising awareness of child drownings will save other families from the heartbreak they are suffering.
So often we focus on swimming lessons in the spring and early summer months, when we know our children will be playing in the water the most. However, taking swimming lessons year round helps children maintain and improve their water safety skills. Then when summer arrives, our children will be more confident and understand the risks of being around water. Swimming should be fun and enjoyable during the summer months.
DROWNING IS A SILENT KILLER
Drowning is one of the most common causes of accidental death for children. It’s actually the leading cause of unintentional death for children under the age of 4, and the second highest cause of death for children 1-14 after motor vehicle accidents.
Many of these deaths are avoidable. Studies show that as many as 88% of drownings in 1-4 year olds could have been reduced had the child taken swimming lessons before age 4.
Water, and especially swimming pools, and natural bodies of water, hold an undeniable draw for children. As parents, we know how important it is to keep a watchful eye on our children. But the reality is, we can be watching and not even know a child is in danger.
Drowning is a silent killer. The thrashing depicted in a drowning scene in the movies and on television simply isn’t realistic. Think back to watching your children in the water. Children playing in the water typically make a lot of noise. It’s when they’re silent that you need to worry. Most drowning victims don’t call for help or wave their arms…they’re too exhausted.
SWIMMING IS A LIFESAVING SKILL
Swimming is a skill that can save your child’s life. In swimming lessons, vital water safety skills are taught, like treading water and floating, turning in a circle and swimming to an exit, swimming 25 yards to an exit, exiting the pool without a ladder, and jumping in the water and being able to return to the surface after being submerged.
Even very young children can be taught these basic water safety skills!
WHEN DO CHILDREN DROWN?
Danger often appears when we least expect it. More often than not, drowning takes place when we think our child is napping or playing in another room. It takes place while we answer the phone, run upstairs for something, or bring a load of groceries up from the garage.
No matter how watchful you are, there are going to be moments when your child is going to be by themselves. We think they are safe, because we know (or we think we know) where they are and what they are doing. But children are very resourceful when it comes to finding a way to do something they want…they slip out the door without anyone seeing, they climb out windows, and they even crawl through doggie doors. In fact, most children who drown in pools were last seen inside their home and had been out of sight for less than 5 minutes.
In the video, Nicole Hughes recalled her son, Levi, disappeared in the time it took her to chew a brownie. Levi had asked her for a treat, and she split a brownie with him. No one noticed Levi slip out of the room, and Nicole had gone to retrieve something when she looked over the balcony and saw him in the pool below. She was still chewing that brownie when she jumped into the pool. Within seconds, she had him out of the water, but it was already too late.
Additionally, as we mentioned above, children can drown under the watchful eye of an adult who doesn’t even realize what is happening because the child isn’t struggling or calling for help.
The reality is that it could happen to any one of us, even the most watchful parent!
WHERE CHILDREN DROWN VARIES BY AGE
Children under the age of 1 drown mainly in bathtubs, buckets, and even toilets. Children ages 1-4 tend to drown mainly in pools and hot tubs. Older children and teenagers tend to drown in natural bodies of water, like lakes or rivers. Boys are more at risk than girls, especially during the adolescent years, due to risk-taking behaviors.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO DROWN?
Children struggle for 20-60 seconds before they go under. Within 3 minutes of submersion, most children lose consciousness, and within 4-6 minutes irreversible brain damage can occur. It only takes minutes for a child to drown.
Even if drowning doesn’t occur, the consequences to a child that is submerged in water for any length of time can be devastating. Dry drowning and secondary drowning are submersion injuries that can prove to be fatal as well.
For every child that dies from drowning, another five receive emergency care for submersion injuries. More than 50% of those near drowning victims require hospitalization or transfer for additional care. 5-10% of near drowning survivors suffer permanent brain damage. In some cases, severe neurological damage means life is drastically altered, for both the child and the family.
If your child suffers a near drowning experience, you should watch for trouble breathing, persistent coughing, sleepiness, fatigue, and vomiting. Symptoms can occur hours, or even days later. If you’re observing any of these symptoms, call your pediatrician immediately. But if your child is having serious problems breathing, call 911 or go straight to the ER.
WATER SAFETY FACTS
WATER SAFETY: LEARN TO SWIM
At New Milford Fitness & Aquatics Club, we are committed to teaching your child the water safety skills they need to be safe around water. We run our swimming lessons year round with certified and experienced instructors, all vetted by our Aquatics Director, Jeanne DiGiacomo, who has over 20 years of experience as a Water Safety Instructor, Lifeguard Instructor and USA Swim Coach. We offer classes, private, and semi-private instruction for all age levels, from babies to adults in our 3’ to 5′ deep 25 yard pool and therapy pool. It’s never too late to learn! Look for our flyers and information at certain pediatric physician offices and day care facilities. You can also check our swimming lessons schedule online and call to register at (860) 799-6880.
Michelle is a long time runner, fitness enthusiast, (mostly) healthy food blogger, and she’s one of the owners at New Milford Fitness & Aquatics Club. She ran cross country and track for the University of Colorado, and advocates cross training to stay healthy and avoid injury.