Water safety stressed ahead of holiday weekend

Water safety stressed ahead of holiday weekend

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Between a series of water accidents in recent days and the upcoming holiday weekend, the Utah Department of Health is asking parents to be especially careful around water.

The Health Department says water accidents are more common than you think.

A child can drown in as little as one inch of water and drowning is usually quick and silent.

–Dr. Charles Pruitt, Primary Children's Medical Center

Jenny Johnson, media and education coordinator for the Violence and Injury Prevention Program, says, "An average of 10 children in Utah die every year because of drowning, and another 82 have near-drowning incidents, where they're admitted to either the hospital or they have to go to the emergency room."

In those cases of near-drowning, permanent brain damage can often result.

• **Family gatherings near pools, lakes and rivers** pose the greatest threat to children ages 5 and under. • **Teens are most at risk in open water**: Most are males who overestimate their swimming ability. • **Inadequate supervision**: The person supposed to be watching the child looked away or left the area for "just a minute." - *Utah Department of Health*
Johnson says drowning can happen fast, in as little as an inch of water, often without fanfare and before parents realize it.

"You always think you're going to hear your kid flailing in the water, screaming for help," she says, "and that's not what happens."

With smaller children, in particular, Johnson says drowning can be completely silent. But in many cases in the warmer weather, she says even if the child made a splash or other noise, the problem is that mom and dad may be distracted.

**Water Safety Tips**
• Actively supervise children who are playing in or near water. • Where there's water, designate an adult "child watcher" during parties and family gatherings. • Warn teenagers of the risks of overestimating how well they swim. • Everyone should wear a life jacket while on a boat or during water sports. Children should also wear a life jacket when near open bodies of water. - *Utah Department of Health*
"We see so many drownings happen with young children where they're in a big group with their family, and a child just simply wanders off because no one's actively watching them and near them and the child can drown, in a pool, in a ditch, in a lake."

"A child can drown in as little as one inch of water and drowning is usually quick and silent," said Dr. Charles Pruitt, an Emergency Medicine physician at Primary Children's Medical Center. "A child may lose consciousness after just one to three minutes and may have irreversible brain damage in as little as four to six minutes after submersion."

What's the solution?

"Parents just need to be diligent about making sure they're never more than an arm's length away from their kid [around water]," Johnson says.

E-mail: bbruce@ksl.com

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Becky Bruce


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