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Summer Swim Safety

By on June 23, 2013

You can count on summer to usher in backyard bar-b-ques, shorts and sandals, and swimming at overcrowded waterparks and beaches, unless you are one of millions who do not know how to swim.

Sadly, drowning continues to be the second leading cause of death in children 1-14 years old, as many children do not know how to swim or do not have access to safe swimming areas. It is a leading cause of unintentional injury death for people of all ages (and the most common cause of unintentional injury death for persons with seizure disorders). Drowning poses the greatest risk for children 1-4 years old.[1] Seventy percent of African-American and sixty percent of Hispanic/Latino children cannot swim.

Almost 80% of people who die from drowning are male.[2] African Americans are also more at risk of a water injury or death, as more of them do not have access to swimming pools and swimming lessons.[3] When public pools were forced to desegregate in the sixties and seventies, whites abandoned them, and community pools lost funding.  As a result, many predominantly black communities have fewer opportunities for people to learn to swim in a safe environment.[4]

Here are 8 tips to protect yourself in the water:

  • Don’t swim in a body of water that doesn’t have a lifeguard on duty, and teach your children to stay in designated swimming areas.
  • Even when there is a lifeguard on duty, have an adult supervising children in the water. Do not let toddlers play in wading pools unwatched as a child can drown in less than a minute. Make sure that persons with seizure disorders have one-on-one supervision near bodies of water.
  • Sign up for swimming lessons at a community pool or school swimming pool, if one is nearby.  Some websites also offer free tutorials for teaching children how to swim.[5]
  • Always jump feet first into water to avoid diving injuries to the neck or head.
  • Teach children how to float when they’re young, and make sure they wear life jackets in natural water settings such as lakes.
  • Do not drink alcohol before going into the water or if supervising children in the water.
  • Never swim alone.
  • Learn Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), so that if something happens, you can save a life.

Prevent swim and water related injuries by taking advantage of opportunities to learn safer water behavior. This summer learn how to swim or help someone who wants to learn. It could save a life.



This article was written and submitted by Anne Dlugosz, a summer 2013 intern at Healthyblackmen.org. Content for this article secured from the sources below. 

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Wide-ranging OnLine Data for Epidemiologic Research (WONDER) [online]. (2010) Available from URL: http://wonder.cdc.gov/mortsql.html
  2. Laosee, OC, Gilchrist, J, Rudd, R. Drowning 2005-2009. MMWR 2012; 61(19):344-347
  3. Branche CM, Dellinger AM, Sleet DA, Gilchrist J, Olson SJ. Unintentional injuries: the burden, risks and preventive strategies to address diversity. In: Livingston IL, editor. Praeger handbook of Black American health (2nd edition): Policies and issues behind disparities in health. Westport (CT): Praeger Publishers; 2004. p. 317-27
  4. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=90213675
  5. http://uswim.com/home

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