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Playing Safe When in the Water

So far, this summer looks like it is going to be beautiful and HOT! One of the best ways to cool down in the summer is a nice refreshing swim, and in Ontario we are blessed with ample locations to do so. However, even a quick impromptu swim comes with hazards, and being prepared dramatically decreases the risk. Going swimming? Here is what you should know.

An Ontario coroner’s report issued in 2010 noted that an increase in temperature could be directly correlated with an increase in the number of swimming-related drownings. In addition, it found that while the overall number of drownings in Ontario decreased steadily between 2006 and 2010, the number of incidents involving children under 5 years of age had increased. In fact, 2010 saw a 260% increase within that age category.

This report, which can be accessed here, contains recommendations for municipalities regarding increasing water safety. However, there are simple things you can do to decrease the risk of swimming and still cool off in the water this summer.

  1. Hone your skills. Whether you are an avid swimmer, are only around the water on occasion, or have kids, taking a CPR course is highly recommended. Hopefully you will never need to put this training to use, but if you ever find yourself in an unfortunate situation it would be great to be prepared. Most municipal recreation centres offer inexpensive classes and re-certifications.
  2. Know your limits. In addition to being a great way to beat the heat, swimming is a lot of fun. Although it can be tempting to stay in the water for as long as possible, it is important that you allow yourself to take a break and not push to your limit. You can always go in again.
  3. Buddy up. One of the key things that swimming instructors and the majority of municipal swimming areas recommend is picking a partner and looking out for each other. Parents and instructors typically do a great job of enforcing this for kids between the ages of 5 and 15, which may directly correlate with those age groups accounting for the lowest percentage of incidents. However, adults should always at least tell someone else they are going swimming and should lead by example. With children under five, you are their buddy and need to keep your eyes on them all the time.
  4. Be wary of your environment. The majority of Ontarians don’t have private pools. Lakes, rivers, oceans and even public pools come with inherent hazards that are beyond a swimmer’s control. You do have control over your decisions, so assess the water before you get in. Look for congestion in pools (especially when jumping in) and currents in rivers, lakes and oceans. Always be wary of the depth of the water you are entering. You should also make sure you know where the ladders and the rescue equipment are located before you begin to swim.
  5. Alcohol and swimming do not mix. According to the 2010 coroner’s inquest, the majority of drownings were alcohol-related incidents when you remove children under the age of 15 from the statistics (44% in total). For swimmers from 20-34 and 55-64 years old, over 80% of drownings were alcohol related. 62.5% of incidents involving teens from 15-19 years old were also alcohol related. Of all of the things you can do to increase water safety, this one is the easiest.

For a great list of water safety tips, including the five mentioned above and many more, visit www.kidshealth.org

As always, we welcome additional comments and tips to increase your safety in the water. Feel free to also share additional resources with our community.

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{ 2 comments… add one }

  • Brian W. Gingell July 7, 2012, 10:57 am

    Thank you for your very good advice!
    It helps to check data like yours frequently!!!


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