School’s out, and summer is here. Hot weather and water—what a perfect combo! But a perfect day can turn not so perfect in an instant.
In BC each year, an average of 75 people die from drowning. Men aged 20 to 34-years-old and kids under 5 are at high risk of drowning. Surprisingly, drownings can happen quickly and quietly, unlike what we see on TV and in the movies.
As we’re getting ready for a fun day by the lake, beach, or even at home, here are some reminders on how you can prevent drowning and heat exhaustion.
Swim smartly: Even strong swimmers can get swept up in strong currents or overestimate their ability. When you’re at the beach, do not swim in large waves or strong undertows. Swim with a buddy only in designated areas with a lifeguard present.
Wear a Lifejacket or PFD: When boating, model the behaviour you wish to see in your kids—everyone should wear a PFD!
- Lifejacket vs. PFD: Lifejackets will turn you over on to your back even if you are unconscious. PFDs are lighter and less bulky, but they are only approved for recreational use and the automatic inflatable PFDs are only for persons over the age of 16 years.
Put the phone away: Most drownings in young children happen when there is no one supervising them or the supervisor is distracted.
- Actively supervise kids at all times in or around water. Young children or weak swimmers should be within an arms-length of caregivers; provide “touch supervision.”
- Very small kids can drown in as little as 2.5 cm (1 inch) of water. Remember to drain wading pools and empty containers of water after use.
Don’t drink: Refrain from using alcohol before or during swimming or boating activities. Save the alcohol for when you’re docked.
Preventing Heat Exhaustion
Be alert: Know the signs of heat exhaustion: headache, dizziness, confusion, unsteadiness, loss of thirst, rapid breathing and heartbeat, nausea or vomiting, and decreased urination with dark yellow urine.
Remember the S’s: Always remember to wear sunscreen, sun hats, and sunglasses. Sunscreen should be 50 SPF or greater and should be re-applied frequently, especially if you’re going in the water.
Dress appropriately: Dress in lightweight, breathable materials. Kids should wear long sleeves to provide extra protection from the sun. Tying up long hair can allow for better air flow to evaporate sweat.
Eat “cooling” foods and drinks: Raw veggies and fruits can hydrate and cool you at the same time – cucumber slices, watermelon. Make homemade popsicles. And of course, remember to drink water regularly before you feel thirsty.
Call Grandma: Remember to check on loved ones, especially older adults with underlying health conditions, those who are pregnant, have limited mobility, or people who live alone.
Stay inside sometime: If you do go out in the sun, plan to be outside during the cooler parts of the day. Around 5 PM is when it’s the hottest.
- BC Coroners Service. Accidental Drowning Deaths 2008-2018. Published September 17, 2021. Available https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/birth-adoption-death-marriage-and-divorce/deaths/coroners-service/statistical/accidental-drowning.pdf
- BC Children’s Hospital. Don’t sweat it – Keep cool this summer. June 24, 2022. Available http://www.bcchildrens.ca/about/news-stories/stories/don%E2%80%99t-sweat-it-%E2%80%93-keep-cool-this-summer
- Lifesaving Society. BC 2020 Drowning Report. Available from: https://www.lifesaving.ca/cmsUploads/lifesaving/File/Lifesaving_Drowning-2020_BC_En_.pdf
- BCCDC. Preparing for dangerous heat. July 28, 2021. Available http://www.bccdc.ca/about/news-stories/stories/2021/preparing-for-dangerous-heat
- BC Government. Be Prepared for Extreme Heat. Available from: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/emergency-management/preparedbc/know-your-hazards/severe-weather/extreme-heat
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