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(by Lydia Blankenship, R.N.)

The weather is getting warmer, and with that comes an increase in outdoor activities, including boating, tubing and swimming. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death among children between the ages of 1 to 4 years old, and it is the third leading cause of death among children. In 2011, 70 percent of all fatal boating accident victims drowned, and of those who drowned, 84 percent were not wearing a life jacket.

As the summer season swiftly approaches, swimmers can reduce the risk of drowning by taking some basic safety precautions:

  1. Wear a life jacket. Even if you know how to swim, it’s good practice to wear a life jacket. Make sure children and pets also wear them at all times.
  2. Avoid alcohol. It is illegal in all states to operate a boat under the influence of alcohol. Even when you aren’t driving the boat, there is still a risk of injury if you’re drinking while boating. In fact, 46 percent of all boating fatalities occur while boats are docked, anchored or drifting.
  3. Maintain constant supervision of children. Kids are fast and require constant supervision. Any adults responsible for supervising small children should avoid distractions such as talking on the phone or playing games, and they should not be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  4. Learn basic life support. It is important to know CPR and to have a first aid kit available at all times.
  5. Fence in pools. In order to prevent accidental drowning, be sure to have a fence around all backyard swimming pools. This will decrease access to the area.
  6. Never dive in shallow water. Always enter pools, rivers, lakes or oceans feet first. If the water is shallow or if it has objects under the surface, diving can cause serious spinal cord injury.
  7. Never swim alone. Always swim with a buddy, parent or where a lifeguard is present.

Playing in the water is a great way for the entire family to make memories during the summer season—and to cool off! However, it’s important to play it safe while enjoying outdoor activities, no matter your age. Following a few simple rules can ensure everyone has a safe summer!

Lydia Blankenship, R.N., is the trauma program manager at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center (St. David’s Emergency Center in Bastrop is an extension of St. David’s South Austin Medical Center).

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