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June 6, 2024

Stay Safe Around Water This Summer

ThedaCare Physician Provides Guidelines and Tips for Families

Pools, lakes and waterways are staples of fun during summer months in Wisconsin. From swimming to tubing to canoeing and boating, kids and families have plenty of opportunities to enjoy the water.

To help keep children and families safe, it’s important to follow safety tips.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning poses a big risk for children. For kids ages 1 to 4, it’s the leading cause of death. For children ages 5 to 14, drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional injury and death, after motor vehicle crashes.

“Staying safe with aquatic adventures requires awareness, preparedness and vigilance,” said Dr. Angie Amos, a Family Medicine Physician with ThedaCare Physicians-Waupaca, who is offering a splash of timely tips.

Preventing Drowning

Dr. Amos recommends taking advantage of that summer free time and sign up kids for swimming lessons.

“Learning to swim is a fundamental skill that can save lives,” Dr. Amos said. “It instills confidence in the water, and also equips people with essential survival skills.” 

To further minimize the risk of drowning, parents and other supervising adults should keep a close eye on young children near water, even if young ones know how to swim. Drowning can happen quickly and silently, so constant supervision is key.

“In addition, don’t overestimate swimming abilities or push yourself or others beyond their comfort zone,” Dr. Amos said. “Be sure to stick to designated swimming areas and avoid waters with strong currents or hazards.”

Navigating Slippery Surfaces

Slips and falls can pose a significant risk, particularly on wet surfaces like pool decks or boat docks.

“Wearing appropriate footwear with good traction can help prevent slips and falls, reducing the risk of injuries,” Dr. Amos said.

Common injuries include ankle and wrist sprains and strains. Falls can even result in more serious injuries such as torn ligaments in the knee, back, or shoulder. Staying cautious and avoiding running and reckless behavior near water can help reduce the risk of accidents.

Practicing Boating Safety

Understanding boating safety is vital. Dr. Amos underscores the importance of following boating regulations and using proper safety equipment.

“Life jackets are a critical piece of boating safety equipment that can mean the difference between life and death in an emergency,” she said. “Everyone on board any watercraft should wear a properly fitted life jacket.”

Before embarking on a boating excursion, ensure that your watercraft is equipped with essential gear. This includes life jackets, navigation lights and a first aid kit.

It’s also best to avoid consuming alcohol while boating. Alcohol use can affect judgment, vision, balance and coordination.

Avoiding Waterborne Ailments

Swimmer’s ear and swimmer’s itch are common complaints associated with recreational water activities.

Swimmer’s ear is a bacterial infection typically caused by water that stays in the outer ear canal for a long period of time, providing a moist environment for bacteria to grow. Anyone can get swimmer’s ear, but it’s more common in children.

“After swimming, gently dry your ears with a towel, and avoid inserting objects like cotton swabs into the ear canal,” Dr. Amos said. “This can damage the eardrum or promote infection by breaking down the delicate skin of the ear canal.”

If you suspect swimmer’s ear, contact your doctor’s office. Prompt treatment can help prevent complications and more serious infections.

Swimmer’s itch is a rash that can occur after spending time in water outdoors. It’s most common to develop swimmer’s itch after swimming in freshwater lakes or ponds, but it can occur after swimming in saltwater as well.

Showering after swimming can help remove any parasites or bacteria that may linger on the skin, reducing the risk of swimmer’s itch. If you or child do develop swimmer’s itch, and it doesn’t resolve within a week, contact your doctor’s office.

“Water activities offer endless opportunities for summer fun,” Dr. Amos said. “If we all remain alert and take precautions, it can help keep everyone safe.”