Swimming safety can protect children and families this summer

July 18, 2019

Genesee Health Plan and YMCA of Greater Flint offer tips for staying safe in swimming pools, lakes and other bodies of water  

July is historically the hottest month of the year in Michigan and many Genesee County families are staying cool at pools or visiting a variety of area lakes. The Genesee Health Plan (GHP) and YMCA of Greater Flint encourage children, adults and families to follow swimming safety measures to reduce risk of drownings and swimming-related emergencies.

“A swimming emergency can happen to anyone and it’s important for people of all ages and swimming abilities to be prepared for an emergency,” said Elizabeth Hudson, association aquatics director for YMCA of Greater Flint. “Seconds count when saving a life and any age swimmer can become a victim in the water. We encourage residents to always swim with a buddy, only swim in designated areas where a lifeguard is on duty, and pay attention to signage and announcements about water risks or levels.”

Recent media reports have shown the risk of using large inflatables as flotation devices in large bodies of open water. This week, a toddler on an inflatable duck was swept away due to the wind and heavy current in Lake Michigan. Earlier this summer, a child in North Carolina was swept away while on an inflatable unicorn in the Atlantic Ocean. Inflatables should be used in an enclosed area and U.S. Coast Guard-approved lifejackets should still be worn in open water. 

In the case of an emergency, Hudson says to call 911 or a local emergency number immediately, and if possible, use a pole or object to extend to the person who is in trouble. Below are proactive measures to promote safe swimming and reduce risk of an emergency.

  • Swim only in designated areas, supervised by a lifeguard.
  • Always swim with a buddy, regardless of age or swimming ability.
  • Make sure young or inexperienced swimmers wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved lifejackets. All U.S. Coast Guard-approved items must be fitted and used according to their guidelines. Swimming noodles and other flotation devices do not replace lifejackets. Inflatables and noodles can create a false sense of security for non-swimmers.
  • Ensure everyone knows rules for the swimming area and understands swimming conditions such as depth, water temperature, current, and underwater hazards including vegetation and animals when swimming in bodies of water. 
  • Know physical limitations, such as fitness level and medical conditions, and take frequent breaks to avoid exhaustion.
  • Supervision is essential. Maintain constant supervision of children and avoid distractions when supervising swimmers.
  • Teach children to ask permission before going near water, including pools, lakes, ponds, streams and rivers.
  • If a child goes missing, check the water first.
  • Home pools or water sources should have appropriate barriers in place. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, home pools should have a fence surrounding it that is at least four feet high.
  • Do not swim while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
    • Be mindful of any prescribed medications that you or a buddy may be taking as some side effects can alter your ability to swim and cause drowsiness, dizziness, or impairment.
  • Stay away from drains and other openings that may have suction.
  • Do not enter a pool headfirst unless there is a designated diving area.

Approximately one in five people who die from drowning are children age 14 and younger, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Swimming emergencies can include: when someone who doesn’t know how to swim enters water they can’t manage at their level, when someone who is exhausted can’t stay afloat, or when children aren’t protected against accidental entry into a pool and can’t swim.

Swim lessons can equip children and adults with the knowledge they need to swim safely. The YMCA offers swim lessons year-round at both the Downtown and Pierson Road locations for children six months old and older as well as adults. The YMCA also offers CPR/First Aid and Lifeguarding courses to help train community members on swimming safety. For more information, visit flintymca.com.

“We want everyone to have a safe, healthy and fun summer and we encourage Genesee County residents to take proactive safety measures when swimming,” said Jim Milanowski, GHP president and CEO. “While swimming is a low-impact exercise that can help improve health, it’s also important to be aware of your swimming ability and health conditions before entering a pool or body of water.”

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