Published on June 08, 2022

Six water safety tips to prevent drowning

Boys Kayaking

Summer was slow to arrive this year, but it’s finally here and many Minnesotans are ready to dip their toes in the water. Lakes, rivers, pools—all provide endless hours of summer fun, but can also be very dangerous, especially for young children.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), drowning is the leading cause of death in children and for every child who dies from drowning, another eight receive care in an emergency department for a near-drowning incident. These nonfatal incidents can cause serious injuries such as hypoxic brain injury and organ damage and range from mild to serious outcomes, including long-term disability.

“Drowning can happen very quickly and can be silent—it may not look like we expect it to,” shares Matthew Herold, MD, Vice President of Medical Affairs, Ridgeview. “Unfortunately, many drownings occur with an adult in the vicinity of the victim. If you're not actively watching to see the person struggling, you'll be too late,” he added.

Follow these guidelines to help stay safe around water this summer:

Drowning prevention tips

  1. Invest in swim lessons. Simply put, the leading cause of drowning is lack of ability—drowning is preventable. Even if you are not water enthusiasts, consider having all of your family members learn how to swim. Many local community centers offer swim lessons.
  2. Wear a life jacket. Be sure that everyone on the boat has a properly fitted life jacket. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) requires everyone under the age of 10 to wear a life jacket when the boat is in motion. While not required by law, the DNR recommends that everyone, regardless of age, wear one while on the water.
  3. Learn CPR. Seconds matter when someone is unconscious. You cannot rely on, or assume, that someone nearby will know CPR. Take safety into your own hands and become CPR certified. Ridgeview partners with Crown College in Saint Bonifacius offering CPR training classes to the community. Learn more.
  4. Install fences and locks. If you or a neighbor own a pool or hot tub, be sure that it is properly fenced and locked. Never assume it is inaccessible and leave children unattended. Secure all doors leading outside and consider an alarm system if you have young children.
  5. Assign “lifeguard” shifts. It is too easy to get distracted or think someone else has an eye on the kids, especially when in a large group at a pool party or the beach. It is reasonable to assign each adult a lifeguard shift and alternate to ensure that someone is actively watching, always.
  6. Utilize the buddy system. When on the water, always take a buddy, especially for higher-risk activities such as jet skiing, paddle boarding and kitesurfing. In a group, it’s also a good idea to pair up kids and teens, so they are watching out for each other. While not a substitution for actively watching children, you can never have too many eyes on kids near water.

Close calls and signs to watch for

While not all water incidents require a trip to the emergency department, if your child has a close call, monitor them closely during the 24 hours following the incident. Watch for signs of labored breathing, coughing, chest pain, vomiting or fatigue—and do not hesitate to seek medical attention if you have concerns.

Despite risk of injury, the physical activity and fond memories that come with summertime fun in the water are invaluable. Use caution, stay engaged and recognize how quickly drownings can occur. Have fun and enjoy the water this summer—responsibly.