LHSC hopes to prevent drownings with water safety tips

Photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / Orla

With summer’s official arrival earlier this week and numerous hot, humid days ahead, the London Health Sciences Centre is offering up safety tips to keep people in the pool and out of the emergency room.

Data from the Canadian Life Saving Society indicates an average of 450 to 500 people drown in Canada each year with the majority of these fatal incidents, about 66 per cent, happening between May and September. Approximately 34 per cent of the country’s drownings occur in a lake or pond and for every fatal drowning there are an estimated three close calls.

“While tragic, we recognize that many drownings can be prevented if we consider three important factors,” said LHSC Injury Prevention Specialist Jennifer Britton. “Almost all documented drowning cases occurred due to either a lack of personal flotation devices, alcohol consumption, swimming alone, or a combination of those factors.”

In an effort to avoid more tragedy on the water, the LHSC is recommending people of all ages take swimming lessons to help build confidence. There should also always be a dedicated, active supervisor for areas where children will be swimming. That individual should be solely focused on keeping an eye on the swimmers with no distractions from devices such as a cellphone.

Even for adults, hospital officials state the “buddy system” is best. Taking a dip in pairs means you can look out for one another.

Whether you’re swimming, boating or waterskiing, you should always do so sober, the LHSC added. Aquatic activities and alcohol have proved to be a deadly combination, with impairment sighted as a factor in 44 per cent of drowning deaths in those aged 15 to 64.

“Drownings happen quickly and often silently: in fact, it can take only 10 to 20 seconds,” said Britton. “The most important thing we want to remind people is to be vigilant. Have fun and enjoy their pools, or visits to the beach, but make sure they’re not forgetting that all of these activities carry an element of danger, and vigilance is important.”