Avoid these top five assumptions that may lead to drowning

August 13, 2018 by Lesley Young, University of Alberta

An average of 40 Albertans die each summer from drowning in lakes and rivers, according to the 2018 edition of the Alberta Drowning Report, prepared by Lifesaving Society Canada.

"Most of these drownings could be prevented with a few simple measures to reduce common risks," said Kathy Belton, associate director of the University of Alberta's Injury Prevention Centre, who added that drowning is the third leading cause of preventable death in children under 10.

"One of the biggest mistakes many of us make is assuming we know how to be safe— or to ensure our kids' safety—around water."

Find out how accurate your water safety knowledge is by checking it against the following dangerous assumptions before heading to Alberta's beaches and rivers.

1. "There will be a ruckus when a child is drowning."

In fact, Belton said, most drownings occur silently. "Parents get lulled into thinking that there will be splashing or shouting if there's danger and they can intercede in time. But often there is simply no alert."

Because the major contributing factors to childhood drowning are a lack of supervision or a distracted caregiver, it's critical that an adult be designated to supervise water play.

2. "My child is a good swimmer. Or, my older children are good swimmers."

"As parents, we often overestimate the abilities of our children," said Belton. "But when it comes to water, err on the side of caution and provide more attention and focus than you might initially think is necessary."

That also means not leaving it up to to supervise younger ones, no matter how skilled a swimmer you think they are, added Belton. She also pointed out that many Albertans are used to swimming pools but forget that our rivers can contain dangerous undertows and eddies.

"You can get in all kinds of trouble in rivers."

3. "You won't drown if you're just having fun near the shoreline."

Nearly one in five Albertans who drowned between 2011 and 2015 (17 per cent) did so while walking, running or playing near water, said Belton, noting that many drownings occur 50 metres from safety.

"It's worth noting that of the swimming-related deaths, 32 per cent of the deceased had poor swimming ability," she added.

Though swimming skill won't necessarily prevent drowning—for kids, especially under the age of five, adult supervision is vital, said Belton—the better your swimming abilities, the more likely you are to be able to save yourself. She encouraged Albertans to take the Lifesaving Society of Canada's Swim to Survive course, and a first aid course that includes water rescue and CPR training.

4. "It'll be a short boat ride. Skip the PFD."

The number one reason for boat-related drownings (74 per cent) is not wearing a life-jacket or personal flotation device (PFD), said Belton.

"A life-jacket is only useful if it's being worn; it can't save your life if it's sitting on the bottom of the boat."

That being said, PFDs are not substitutes for swimming lessons and , she added. For tips on buying right-sized PFDs, check out the Canadian Red Cross, and remember the Life Jacket Loaner Station offers free day use of life-jackets to the public in select provincial parks across Alberta.

5. "One drink won't hurt."

Two more important points—especially for Albertans between ages 16 and 35—are don't drink and swim, and don't drink and boat, said Belton.

"Alcohol is behind 40 per cent of all swimming-related drownings, and it is also behind more than a quarter of all boating-related drownings. Mixing drinking and boating is just as risky as drinking and driving, and just as illegal."

Designating a boat driver who is not drinking isn't the answer either, she added. "If you fall in and you're impaired, you will be less capable of recovering and making it to safety."

Explore further: Fatal child drownings in open water areas are increasing

Related Stories

Fatal child drownings in open water areas are increasing

July 30, 2018
(HealthDay)—Most fatal child drownings occur each year between May and August, the majority of which happen in lakes, rivers, oceans, and other types of open water, according to a report released by Safe Kids Worldwide.

Trampolines should be banned except for gymnastics, says injury prevention expert

July 20, 2018
Based on the high rates of injury on trampolines in Alberta every summer, the University of Alberta's Injury Prevention Centre would like to see the devices banned except for gymnastic training.

Keep summer water fun safe with training and supervision

May 24, 2013
Fun in the summer often means kids spending time in the water, whether at a pool, the beach, a lake or river. A pediatric safety expert at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) stresses proper training and supervision ...

More than 1/3 of parents would allow child to be in residential or hotel pool unsupervised

May 15, 2017
As kids get ready to splash around in pools this summer, some parents may underestimate drowning risks, suggests a new national poll.

How to keep kids safe from medications and other household poisons

March 20, 2018
Death by poisoning is a very serious problem in Alberta that tends to fall under the radar, according to the University of Alberta's Injury Prevention Centre.

Stay alert for child drowning dangers this summer

June 29, 2016
(HealthDay)—School's out and the temperature's rising and that means more people will be cooling off at beaches, lakes and pools. But a new report reveals that parents and caregivers need to be extra vigilant when kids ...

Recommended for you

Crunched for time? High-intensity exercise = same cell benefits in fewer minutes

September 20, 2018
A few minutes of high-intensity interval or sprinting exercise may be as effective as much longer exercise sessions in spurring beneficial improvements in mitochondrial function, according to new research. The small study ...

China's doctor shortage prompts rush for AI health care

September 20, 2018
Qu Jianguo, 64, had a futuristic medical visit in Shanghai as he put his wrist through an automated pulse-taking machine and received the result within two minutes on a mobile phone—without a doctor present.

Time to ban the sale of energy drinks to children, says senior doctor

September 19, 2018
It's time to bring in laws to ban the sale of caffeinated energy drinks to children and young people in England to tackle the twin epidemics of obesity and mental health problems, argues Professor Russell Viner, President ...

For-profit hospitals correlated with higher readmission rates

September 19, 2018
Patients who receive care in a for-profit hospital are more likely to be readmitted than those who receive care in nonprofit or public hospitals, according to a new study published by University of Illinois at Chicago researchers.

Sugar content of most supermarket yogurts well above recommended threshold

September 18, 2018
A comprehensive survey of ingredients in yogurts highlights high sugar levels in many—particularly organic yogurts and those marketed towards children.

Research confronts 'yucky' attitudes about genetically engineered foods

September 18, 2018
Is a non-browning apple less "natural" than non-fat milk? In one case, people have injected something into apple DNA to prevent it from turning brown after it's cut. In the other, people used technology to remove something ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.