It’s finally holiday time for most. This means virtually everyone is making a beeling for the pool, beaches, rivers, dams, and lakes. Sadly, what is supposed to be a fun time, often turns into tragedy with thousands of children at risk of drowning.

Drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury death in South Africa. According to the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI), about 600 children drown in our country’s waters each year and kids under the age of five are the most vulnerable.

Drowning is a silent killer

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that at least 236 000 people drown across the globe every year. In 2019, it was estimated that there were 2 403 drowning deaths in South Africa, with 639 (27%) of the victims aged 14 and under. A 2018 study found that in Gauteng, 50% of drownings were in home settings such as swimming pools or bathtubs.

Drowning is a silent killer. A child can drown within 30 seconds in just 4cm of water. Children don’t only drown when they’re swimming. They can also drown if they fall into the water and that is why it is important that you are vigilant when you’re around water with children.

Here’s how to keep your children safe around water this festive season.

Tips to keep your child safe

Tip #1 : Supervise and stay sober when you’re the adult in charge

Always make sure that your child is supervised by a responsible adult while swimming. This includes just playing with or around water even if it’s shallow or the child knows how to swim. Medical conditions such as epilepsy increase the risk of drowning, so if you or your child has a medical condition or experiences seizures, it is important to ensure constant adult supervision.

Alcohol lowers alertness levels and it also slows down the reflexes needed to act quickly when we spot danger. It is therefore important that the person watching over the children is sober.

Tip #2 : Use a life jacket but don’t rely on it alone

Children and non-swimmers should always wear a life jacket when they are swimming because it provides an added layer of protection against drowning. However, buoyancy aids such as inflatable wings and tubes are only aids and parents should remember these do not take away the need for constant adult supervision.

Tip #3 : Enrol your child for swimming lessons

Children should take swimming lessons as soon as possible. Swimming also has other benefits. It keeps your child’s heart and lungs healthy, improves strength and flexibility, increases stamina, and even improves balance and posture. Swimming classes aren’t just for beginners or kids — people of any age or ability can benefit.

Tip #4: Learn CPR

Drowning can be fatal however your child can survive if they get help immediately. Knowing how to administer CPR could mean the difference between life and death. Should the worst happen and you have to rescue your child, conducting CPR while you wait for an ambulance could save your child’s life.

The following CPR procedure is for children between the age of 12 months and 8 years old.

  1. Chest compressions:
    Lay the child down on a flat, firm surface. Place the heel of your hand over the lower third area of their breastbone and give the child 30 quick chest compressions. Press hard enough so that the chest moves down 5 centimetres. This will help get the blood flowing to the vital organs and the brain.
  2. Push hard, push fast:
    For children: Place the heel of one hand on the center of the chest, then place the heel of the other hand on top of the first hand, and lace your fingers together. Deliver 30 quick compressions that are each about 4cm deep.
    For infants: Use 2 fingers to deliver 30 quick compressions that are each about 4cm deep.
  3. Keep going:
    Repeat the 30 compressions till the child can breathe or the ambulance arrives. – Health-e News