Be water smart: Drowning is preventable

WITH summer in full swing, more British Columbians are heading to rivers, lakes and the ocean to cool down and relax. While water activities can be fun, they can come with a risk of drowning for those who aren’t prepared. 

Drowning can happen quickly and quietly. In recent years, 67 per cent of water-related deaths occur in the summer months in B.C.

“Unfortunately drowning deaths are likely to occur when we’re seeing the nicest weather in our province,” says Dr. Ian Pike, Director of the BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit at BC Children’s Hospital.

Even surviving a near-drowning experience can have serious consequences. A person can suffer life-long effects such as brain damage, and an incident in which water has entered the lungs can cause complications – even death – up to three days following the incident. 

Drowning is preventable

“Drowning deaths are always devastating because they happen unexpectedly to healthy individuals, and small children are at risk,” says Dr. David Evans, Medical Director, Trauma Services BC. “Parents need to be hyper vigilant when kids are around water.”

Using common sense is key in preventing drowning. “Adolescents and adults need to be smart about alcohol and other intoxicants around water,” adds Evans. He also recommends that wherever possible, parents ensure their children complete the swimming programs offered by the Red Cross. “The best investment is to become a strong swimmer.”

“Circumstances can change quite quickly when you’re spending a day on or near the water,” says Pike. “Remembering to actively supervise your kids, being mindful of changing conditions, and putting a PFD [personal flotation device] or lifejacket on weak swimmers of all ages can prevent drowning.”

There are many ways to be water smart to keep you and your loved ones safe.

* Build a four-sided fence with a self-closing, self-latching gate to surround all pools.

* Do not leave inflatable pools or buckets of water around – children can drown in only a few inches of water.

* Make sure children are well supervised by responsible adults at all times in and around water.

* Enroll yourself and your child in swimming lessons.

* Ensure everyone is wearing an approved personal flotation device (PFD) or lifejacket on a boat, and that weak swimmers, young or old, wear one when playing by the beach or the lake.

* Learn CPR and/or lifesaving techniques.

* Refrain from using alcohol before or during swimming or boating activities.

Quick facts:

* In B.C., 92 per cent of drowning deaths among children and youth happen because they lacked supervision

* High-risk groups: children under five and men aged 18 to 49

* The greatest number of drowning deaths occur among males (78 per cent)

* Drowning is the leading cause of death in B.C. for toddlers aged one to four, who tend to drown in bathtubs or swimming pools

* Among the survivors of near-drowning, 20 per cent sustain permanent brain damage

Learn more:

– BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit

– Lifesaving Society BC

The Community Against Preventable Injuries (Preventable)

– Canadian Red Cross

– Parachute Canada

– Trauma Services BC is dedicated to ensuring optimal care for trauma patients in British Columbia. Learn more at the Trauma Services BC website.