Safety tips to avoid drowning

contributing columnistMay 18, 2014 

Many Kentuckians will celebrate Memorial Day weekend by splashing into a pool, boating on a lake or canoeing down a stream. As the season for recreational water activity gets underway, it's important to remember steps to keep children and adolescents safe.

Every year in Kentucky, an average of 14 children die by drowning. About half the drowning deaths occur among children ages 1 to 4. From 2009 to 11, 80 percent of childhood drowning deaths occurred at the child's residence or someone else's home. A quarter of drowning deaths occurred among adolescents, mostly while swimming, boating or fishing on lakes and rivers.

Prevention of toddler and child drowning requires constant supervision around all types of water, including car-washing buckets, bathtubs, baby pools, ornamental ponds, swift-flowing creeks, pools and larger bodies of water. Toddlers can fall in and drown even in just a few inches of standing water in a bucket, so it's important to empty baby pools immediately after use.

Because drowning can happen swiftly and silently, a responsible adult or "water watcher" should actively supervise children at all times, even if lifeguards are present. They should be within arms-reach of toddlers and children who cannot swim. Floaties and waterwings are not sufficient life-saving devices. U.S. Coast Guard-approved life vests for the appropriate weight are needed and even then, supervision is required.

It's best to create barriers to water sources. Four-sided, 4-foot high fencing and a self-closing gate prevent your children and neighborhood children from falling into a backyard pool. Removing a ladder may be helpful for above-ground pools that are not fenced.

Also, while swimming lessons don't replace supervision, children should be taught to swim.

The YMCA, Red Cross and university swim programs all offer lessons.

Finally, wear a life-jacket on the water. While boating, U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets should be worn at all times by all boaters for the best protection. As water distances can be deceptive when swimming, it's also important to remind teen swimmers of the dangers of fatigue. Never swim without a buddy and always remember that alcohol and boating never mix.

Recreational water activity is a great way to incorporate exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle for all ages. A bit of prevention will keep your water fun safe.

Motorcyclists and movie fanatics from as far away as Canada made the pilgrimage to northern New Mexico to celebrate Dennis Hopper and his iconic counterculture film Easy Rider.

Several dozen motorcycles gathered Saturday in the dusty, adobe encircled plaza in the community of Ranchos de Taos to kick off what town officials hope will be an annual event — Dennis Hopper Day — with a rally and ride through some of the places made famous in the film.

Saturday would have been the late actor and director's 78th birthday. Hopper lived in Taos for years and is buried there.


Fans honor Dennis Hopper at 'Easy Rider' festival

Dr. Susan Pollack if the director of the Pediatric and Adolescent Injury Prevention Program at the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center and a pediatrician at Kentucky Children's Hospital.

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