By John Madden
Did you know, according to the WHO; Drowning is the 3rd leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide, accounting for 7% of all injury-related deaths.
Rolling into the summer months you might find yourself with the odd day here and there to pack the kids into the car and hit the road for a day out. There is a wide range of stunning beaches across the coastline of Ireland, no sign posts needed here, just pick a direction and go until you run out of road. However, at the end of the day, even when looking out to the sea from the coastline it can look like a thousand diamonds strewn across a blue plain there are so many hidden danger lying beneath. Water and sunshine can be like magnets and of course why not? Who wouldn’t love a dip into the water when the sun is at its highest and fun to be had splashing about suits everybody from a toddler to a pensioner? It’s great, it’s free (not all that common in this days and age) but with that in mind, it’s crucial to put safety first, no matter what your age.
On average, across Ireland, 135 people drown every year. This is often down to people overestimating their ability and underestimating the risks.
Alcohol is a factor in one-third of all drownings. Taking alcohol before swimming impairs your sense of distance and direction. You think you’ll make it to the other side of a river, or as far as a rock but you may have underestimated the risks of dangerous currents.
Many swimmers will soon have their first open water swim of the year, however, having been used to the calm warm water of winter leisure centre swimming; not only will they not be used to open water currents, they’ll also find the colder water presents them with further difficulties. Swimming may give a feeling of warmth but speeds up muscle cooling. The body may produce more heat when swimming but it is also lost more quickly from the arm and leg muscles. Once these muscles cool, swimming becomes more difficult or impossible.
Children can be at great risk in the water, and sadly a number of children have drowned over the past few years. These drownings have sometimes happened in a matter of seconds and even in shallow water. The only way to combat water-related accidents is through constant and responsible supervision, and with kids being kids, it can be easy for them to escape the watchful eye of their minders. With that in mind, it is no harm to instill proper safety habits into all of our heads for the upcoming months.
• Swim with others, never alone.
• Avoid swimming in unfamiliar places.
• Don’t swim out after objects that are drifting away
• Stay in the water for short periods.
• Swim in daylight, not in darkness.
• Swim parallel and close to the shore.
• Pay attention to signs on the beach.
• Don’t be a bully to others in the water.
• Learn to use the equipment before trying it out.
• Never use inflatable toys in open water – they have the potential to be floating killers.
• Swim in view of lifeguards and heed their advice.
• Wear a lifejacket with crotch strap when boating or fishing from shore.
• Know the different beach and lifeguard flags. The red flags mean DON’T, and the yellow and red flags mean it is safe to swim within the area between the flags.
Whatever you do and wherever you decide to go over the summer, always be mindful of water safety. We all know it’s vital for us to live but it’s also something that can extinguish a life within seconds. Be mindful and vigilant, because nobody wants you to become another statistic. Be safe.
A big thank you to Roger Sweeney from the Irish Water Safety Authority for his guidance with this article.
For more information log onto www.iwsa.ie