As the temperature rises, you may be searching for entertaining ways to remain active while cooling down. During the hot summer months, water sports such as swimming, diving, canoeing, boating, and water skiing provide relief. It is critical to maintain safety at the forefront of our minds while participating in recreational water sports.

“When we think of water safety, we generally think of swimming pools,” said Dr. Richard Romano, Emergency Department staff physician at Baystate Wing Hospital. “But there are many other places where water safety should be practiced. It’s important to remember that drowning can happen anywhere there is water, including swimming pools, ponds, and lakes and even in the presence of lifeguards.”

It is estimated that 11 individuals die from accidental drowning every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One in every four of these individuals is a child under the age of fourteen.


“Drowning is a quick and silent killer,” said Dr. Romano. “The majority of children who drown in swimming pools were last seen in the home, had been out of sight for less than five minutes, and were in the care of one or both parents at the time of the drowning. In the time it takes to cross the room for a towel (10 seconds), a child in the bathtub can become submerged. In the time it takes to answer the phone (2 minutes), that child can lose consciousness. In the time it takes to sign for a package at your front door (4 to 6 minutes), a child submerged in the bathtub or pool can sustain permanent brain damage.”

Inflatable aids, such as water wings and tubes, are not substitutes for adult supervision. A child’s ability to swim is essential, but it does not automatically make him or her “drown-proof.” Instruct youngsters on the necessity of swimming with a buddy and always being accompanied by an adult while swimming.


Practicing water safety is not just important for children; teenagers and adults should too. According to the CDC drowning is the second highest cause of accidental injury mortality among children aged 1–14, behind motor vehicle accidents.

“Young people who drown are often victims of their own misjudgment of their swimming ability,” said Dr. Romano. “They may view a river or a lake as a tempting means of cooling off in a hot spell but fail to appreciate the harmful effects that the cold water can have on stamina and strength.”

Swimming and drinking alcohol may be a hazardous combination.

Learning how to swim is important for everyone. Those who don’t know how to swim can very easily find themselves in water over their heads with little time to call for help. They can submerge and drown in a matter of minutes.

“Alcohol reduces body temperature and impairs swimming ability, balance, coordination, and judgment and its effects are heightened by sun exposure and heat,” said Dr. Romano.


It’s not always easy to tell if someone is drowning. They may look like they’re just splashing around and having fun. They may not necessarily yell for help or wave their arms.

Before someone actively starts drowning, there are warning signs.

USA Today outlines them:

  • If someone, especially a child, is holding onto a wall or a floating toy, they probably don’t have too much energy left in them for swimming.
  • Seeing someone by themselves is also not a good sign. This is especially true for a child who has floaties on – since that probably means they can’t swim well on their own.
  • If someone is treading water and not going anywhere, it probably means they’re tired. Even good swimmers can get tired.

Here are some things you may notice if someone is actively drowning:

Look at the person’s face.  Do they look scared? Is their head tilted back – like they’re trying to make sure their face stays above water? Is it possible that they are hyperventilating? If a person is having trouble breathing, they may not be able to yell for assistance.

Look at the person’s body.  Are they moving their arms downward in front of their body? Has it been more than 30 seconds since they’ve been floating face down?

Keep an eye out for individuals who are leaping into the pool. Those who do not know how to swim may begin to drown as soon as they enter the water. Not all drowning looks the same.


If you think you may be drowning, try not to panic.

Float on your back or tread water instead of attempting to keep your whole head above water. This will save a significant amount of energy. To maintain breathing, keep your nose or mouth above water.


The Red Cross lays out what to do in a drowning emergency:

1. Identify whether the person is drowning

Make sure you know the signs ahead of time. Yell for help – making sure to look at specific people to help avoid the bystander effect.

The “touch supervision” approach, which requires always being within an arm’s reach of the child and being ready to grab them and pull them out of the water quickly, is the simplest way to prevent drowning.

2. Get the person out of the water without putting yourself in danger

· Throw a floatable item to the victim if they are within throwing distance. This may be anything from a life jacket to a kick board to an empty gallon jug.

· If the victim is within reaching distance: Help them by extending something long, such as a rope, pole, ring buoy, or a tree branch.

· If you must enter the water to help someone, make sure you have a flotation device that can securely carry two people. Place the equipment between you and the person in distress. In deep water, even a child can endanger an adult.

3. Call 9-1-1

If there is someone with you, ask them to make the call.

If you’re alone, perform two minutes of CPR on the individual before dialing 9-1-1.

4. Start CPR

Lifeguard assisting unconscious girl near swimming pool

Lifeguard assisting unconscious girl near swimming pool

The emergency dispatcher can help guide you through CPR if you don’t know how to do it.

Learn how to give CPR. Continue CPR until help arrives.


Dr. Romano gives some tips for keeping friends, family, and yourself safe in the water. In addition to taking swimming lessons, you should:

Check your environment

  • Before swimming or boating, check the local weather conditions and forecast.
  • Check the water temperature. Cold water may affect the body and make swimming difficult.
  • Have a pool fence.
  • Keep toys away from the pool. Toys can attract young children into the pool when they’re unsupervised.
  • Make sure pool-cleaning equipment, such as brushes and skimmers on long poles, don’t come in contact with power lines.
  • Make sure the pool is treated with chlorine, which helps protect against E. Coli and other dangerous microorganisms.
  • After each usage, empty all buckets, containers, and wading pools. Store them upside down and out of reach of youngsters.

Get ready to swim

  • Toddlers should wear swim diapers that are intended to keep urine and feces contained.
  • Never go swimming by yourself. Invite a friend or family member to join you for a swim or remain close by.
  • Do not swim if you have consumed alcohol or taken medicine that changes your medical condition.

Prepare for an emergency

  • Keep an emergency phone nearby.
  • Learn how to perform CPR.



Baystate Emergency Medicine Palmer | Baystate Health | Springfield, MA

Baystate Wing Hospital | Baystate Health | Springfield, MA

Prevention | Drowning Prevention | CDC

How to know if someone is drowning (