With summer officially underway, the thoughts of many people, young and old, center on getting to the pool, lake, pond, river or ocean to cool off and enjoy the water.
However, there lurks an ever-present danger for people who love being near the water: accidental drowning.
Last summer, Milton residents Melissa and Tony Gibson found their 2-year-old daughter, Josie, unconscious in a family member’s pool.
Every few minutes Melissa would call out for Josie and kept her eye on the back door. She remembers looking over to the living room and seeing an empty floor and called out to her husband, Tony, “Where’s Josie?”
Within seconds, they saw Josie floating, face down in the pool. Tony jumped in the water to get Josie out while someone called 911. They headed to the closest hospital, where doctors performed a breathing treatment and an X-ray which showed fluid in Josie’s lungs.
Melissa said before she and her husband knew it, they were being transported to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Luckily, a new X-ray showed clear lungs and they were discharged.
A few months after the accident, the couple enrolled Josie in swim lessons and, as her mother said, “If it can happen to us, it can happen to anyone.”
She said her family has always been cautious around water, but after this near-tragic incident with their daughter, they have made it their mission to tell others how quickly their lives can change.
“Drownings can happen faster than it takes for you to ride the escalator from one floor of the mall to the next,” Melissa said, “and we are trying to encourage parents to enroll their kids in swimming lessons and learning CPR is just as vital.”
According to statistics from the American Academy of Pediatrics, drowning is the top cause of death for children 4 and under and the second leading cause of death for kids 5 to 14.
In addition, within the U.S., at least two children in the second age group die from drowning each day. According to one media report, during the Memorial Day weekend, five individuals died in drowning incidents in Georgia. One of the victims was Shomari Billings, who drowned in a pool party at a Buckhead apartment complex.
Dr. Sarah Lazarus, a pediatric emergency room doctor with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, said there has been an increase in drownings in the early days of the summer season, but it would be hard to say that, overall, drowning deaths will increase this year.
She said parents or guardians of children playing in the water need to not only pay close attention to their children whether or not a lifeguard is on duty, but practice what she referred to as the “arm-reach, eye-reach” approach to looking out for their children in the water.
“We recommend that if children cannot swim 50 meters comfortably, which is two lengths of a standard-size pool, they should remain within an arm’s length of a parent or guardian,” Lazarus said.
Some other water safety tips, provided by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Pool Safely campaign, include:
♦ Never leave a child unattended in a pool or spa and always watch your children closely around all bodies of water.
♦ Designate a water watcher to supervise children in the pool or spa. This person should not be reading, using a smart phone or be otherwise distracted.
♦ Learn how to swim and teach your child how to swim.
♦ Learn how to perform CPR on children and adults.
♦ Keep children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings to avoid entrapments.
♦ Ensure any pool and spa you use has drain covers that comply with federal safety standards, and if you do not know, ask your pool service provider about safe drain covers and ask your public pool if their drains are “VGB compliant.”
♦ Take the Pool Safely Pledge before spending time in or near the water. To take the pledge, visit www.poolsafely.gov/pledge.