This is a sponsored post by Nationwide. All opinions are my own.
Are your kids finally out of school for the summer? Do you and your family have any vacation plans this summer? If your kids are anything like mine, I’m pretty sure they are ready to soak up some sun and spend time at the beach for a few days. With my daughter graduating from high school last week, we hit the beach the following day. Like every vacation, we made sure to talk to our kids about the dangers of being in the water and not to try anything crazy. We had read about two people drowning on a beach in St. Simons Island where we were headed. When you read about someone losing their life, that’s a real eye-opener and we immediately had a talk with the kids. As a parent, I don’t know how I’d react to losing one of my kids or seeing someone drown right in front of my eyes.
A new report from Safe Kids Worldwide and Nationwide’s Make Safe Happen provide stats that are alarming. For instance, drowning is the number one cause of injury death for children 1-4 years of age. It is the second leading cause of injury death for children 5-14 years of age and the third leading cause of injury death for children 15-19 years of age, as well as for children under 1. My kids are 19, 18 and 13 years-old and, fortunately, we were able to get them swim lessons a few times throughout the years. An estimated 1,000 children fatally drown in a single year, with 70 percent of drownings taking place between May and August. Since my son brought his girlfriend along with us, we took extra precaution and only let them in the water if we were there with them. If you’re a parent that goes to the beach, make sure you download Nationwide’s Make Safe Happen app or check out the website for safety tips.
Below are some of the more troubling stats on open water dangers and who’s most at risk.
Open Water Dangers
Did you know that most children in the U.S. drown in open water, a term that includes natural bodies of water (lakes, rivers, oceans) and man-made bodies of water (canals, reservoirs, retention ponds)? Seeing that I almost drowned at an early age, this statistic scares me. It also makes my over-protective of my children and will never allow them in open water.
Who’s Most at Risk
As children get older, they are more at risk of fatally drowning in open water. Between ages 1 and 4, 57 percent of drownings occur in pools and 22 percent in open water. More than half of open water drownings occur in children under 15. By the time children are older than 15, the risk of open water is far greater. My kids are between 13-19 and this is a scary stat. Even though boys are at a much greater risk of a fatal open water drowning than girls, I’m still looking for my girls. Black/African American children are twice as likely as White children to fatally drown in open water. The risk for Native American children is even greater, at 2.4 times the rate of their White counterparts. For males, the highest drowning rates were found among Black/African American males ages 15-19. Seeing that I’m African-American, it seems like we’re in much more danger in the open water.
Drownings have always been something that has troubled me since I was a kid. When I was 8 years-old I almost drowned at the lake on a trip with the Boys Club. Ever since then you can say that I’ve had a fear of what could happen in the water. After high school, I was set to go to the Navy when I was told that I’d have to live under water in a submarine for an extended amount of time. Let’s just say I had a change of heart and decided to turn down that opportunity. At that time, I was going to be a nuclear engineer, which meant I would be retired by now because it was going to be my career. None of that happened because of my fear of being in the water, so I wanted to warn you that it can haunt your children for life as well.
Nationwide created Make Safe Happen to keep our families as safe as possible. They even created a list of five hidden hazards of open water.
1. Limited Visibility
Water in lakes and ponds can be murky, hiding hazards such as rocks, logs and uneven surfaces. Limited visibility can also make it difficult to see if a child falls in. If lifeguards are present, ask about the safest area to swim. When entering unfamiliar water, go in feet first and wade out slowly.
2.Depth, Distance and Drop-offs
Unlike a pool, open water rarely has depth markings, making it difficult to know if kids are getting into water that is over their heads. When swimming in open water, it can also be hard to perceive distance from the shore. Additionally, while there may be a gradual slope as you enter the water near shore, there might be a sudden drop-off further out. When looking for safe place to swim, choose a designated swimming area and check for signs warning about potential hazards.
3. Currents and Tides
Currents in rivers, creeks and streams can be fast-moving and unpredictable. While some strong currents such as rapids are visible, others can flow under the water’s surface. In oceans or lakes, waves and rip currents can be dangerous. Families should avoid swimming at unsupervised beaches or in areas not designated for swimming. Before allowing kids to swim in open water, make sure they know how to deal with a crashing wave and escape a rip tide or strong current.
4. Water Temperature
Open water is usually colder than water in a pool, which can affect a child’s swimming ability. What’s more, falling into chilly water can result in shock, which can lead to panic and even drowning. When participating in boating or other recreational water activities, families should remember to dress for the water temperature, rather than the air temperature, and to always wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life vest.
5.Weather and Seasonal Differences
Changes in the weather can make open water more hazardous. Heavy rains and flooding can create strong currents and rapidly change the depth and clarity of water. Families should also be aware of man-made storm channels and reservoirs that can be empty one minute and full of water the next. If you are planning an outing that involves open water, check the weather and water conditions before you leave home and again when you arrive. Stay alert for changes while you are onsite and always stay out of the water if you hear thunder or see lightning.