Watered Down: Staying safe in the water this summer

Splashing in cool water during the heat of summer is one of life’s simple pleasures– but it’s not one to be taken lightly. Safety should always be the highest priority around water-related Parkwest Medical Center and Fort Sanders Health and Fitness Center are teaming up to remind the community that water safety is important.

“A child can drown in as little as 30 seconds,” says Jane Holland, manager of the fitness center’s aquatics programs and pools. “No matter your age, you should learn to swim!” Holland says knowing how to remain calm and swim your way out of a scary situation is a valuable tool.

Headshot of Jane Holland
Jane Holland

Swim instructor Janna Newell, who has been with the fitness center since 1999, believes water safety begins with the basics. “To ensure safety around pools, educate your children about the rules,” Newell says.

For adults, the rules Newell is talking about are common sense – things like “don’t run,” and “don’t dive head first.” Those rules always common sense to children and teens, who need some guidance for safety’s sake.

Aside from teaching your children well, Holland says the most important thing parents can do to keep kids safe at the pool is simply to pay attention. “Put your phone away while watching children at the pool, even when lifeguards are present,” Holland says.

Janna Newell headshot
Janna Newell
Kids holding on to the side of the pool kicking their feet making splashes.
Fort Sanders Health and Fitness Center is an award-winning fitness facility offering a variety of aquatic programs for members. For more information, visit fshfcKnoxvilleGym.com or call (865) 531-5000.

Barry Cummings, MD, an emergency physician at Parkwest Medical Center, says the tip at the top of his summer safety list is, “never mix alcohol and water sports.” He says many people may drink more than they intend to, and can become dangerously careless.

The actions you take to keep your family safe in and around the water often depend on age. Here’s a quick checklist*:

For Small Children

  • Clear toys out of the pool so they’re less tempting.
  • When swimming or playing in water, never let your little one get more than an arm’s length away.
  • Close ice chests that may contain melted ice on the bottom.

For Older Children

  • Teach your kids how to swim.
  • Remind your child to remain calm in the water
    when in trouble.
  • Agree on a signal they can give you if they need help.

Reminders for Preteens and Teens

  • Don’t dive into water that has a depth of less than nine feet.
  • Never swim alone.
  • Never swim during inclement

For Every Age

  • Never mix alcohol and water sports.
  • Be realistic about your level of ability in water.
  • Know your limits and stick to them.
  • Not a confident swimmer? Consider swim lessons and CPR certification.
  • Don’t swim in areas where boats are present (remind
    your kids, too).
  • On a boat, wear a personal flotation device approved by the U.S. Coast Guard.
  • Always let someone know where you’re going and what time you expect to be back.
  • Keep a phone and flotation devices on hand in case there is an emergency.

With a little extra care and planning, families can enjoy safe summer fun and make great memories that will last a lifetime!
*Source: Health Library, CovenantHealth.com

Calling for Help

Accidental drowning is one of the leading causes of unintentional death among children ages one to 14 (second only to car crashes). The signs of a child drowning can be subtle. Know what to look
for, and be ready to help in case there’s an emergency.

Signs of Drowning

Drowning usually happens silently and quickly. The body’s instinct is to fight for oxygen, so you may hear gasping or hyperventilating. “A person can be choking to the degree where they’re not able to talk to you,” says Barry Cummings, MD, an emergency physician at Parkwest Medical Center. “They may be confused, disoriented, unusually sleepy or have difficulty recognizing people and surroundings.”

Dr. Barry Cummings headshot
Barry Cummings, MD

Instead of flailing about, a small child might appear to be trying to push himself up. Babies and young toddlers sometimes don’t move at all. You can also look for the universal sign of hands to the throat, signaling that someone is having trouble breathing.

What should I do?

If your child is conscious, coughing and sputtering, it’s a good sign. If he can’t cough or speak, use the Heimlich maneuver. (Babies can be turned over and slapped on the back.) If your child is unresponsive, pull him or her upright or roll the child to the side to help get water out of the lungs. Dr. Cummings says any time a drowning victim is unconscious, he or she should be brought to a hospital emergency department. “If they’re still unresponsive, check for a pulse,” Dr. Cummings says. “If they’re not breathing and there’s no pulse, initiate CPR and by all means summon EMS services as quickly as possible.”

Secondary Drowning

It’s rare, but sometimes drowning can happen hours or even days after coming out of the water. If your child has inhaled water, watch for these symptoms:

  • Coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Loss of energy

If your child exhibits these symptoms, call their family physician to find out what your next steps should be.

The Emergency Care Center at Parkwest provides quick, efficient and thorough service using many state-of-the-art processes to give patients the best treatment possible. To learn more, visit TreatedWell. com/ER or call us at (865) 374-PARK.

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