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Donning the bathing suits and hitting the swimming pool or heading to a lake is looking more and more attractive with each passing day. Whether you get into the water for exercise, for fun, or just to cool off when the temperatures get too high, there are some safety issues that you should keep in mind.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2007, there were 3,443 fatal drownings in the United States, with nearly 20% of those victims being children under the age of 14. In fact, drowning is the second-leading cause of accident-related deaths for children between 1 and 14 years old. And even when not fatal, accidents around water that involve a near-drowning can have life-long consequences, causing brain damage that may lead to long-term disabilities such as memory problems, learning disabilities, and permanent loss of basic functioning.

Some of the major risk factors that the CDC has identified and that contribute to drowning include:

Lack of barriers and supervision. For children, and particularly young children, the failure to have appropriate barriers and proper supervision around swimming pools is a major contributor to drowning deaths. Installing fencing around residential pools is indispensible for keeping children away from the pool.

Failure to use a life jacket when boating. Even if you know how to swim, the value of wearing life jacket when out on a boat cannot be over-stated. When a boating accident occurs, the life jacket is the single most effected protection against drowning. The vast majority of fatalities that result from boating accidents are a result of drowning—where a staggering 90% of the victims were not wearing life jackets.

Alcohol use. It is common knowledge that alcohol has effects on balance, coordination and judgment. These effects are magnified by sun exposure and heat, the weather conditions that make water activities so appealing. Yet alcohol use is involved in nearly half of adolescent and adult deaths associated with water recreation.

Of course, as with many recreational activities, there are a number of steps that you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones when you’re having fun in the sun:

  • Learn how to swim.
  • Avoid swimming alone. If you get injured or tired, having a second person around can be a life saver.
  • Know your limits. Even the strongest swimmers have limits. Know when you are too tired, too cold, and too far from safety and act accordingly.
  • Swim in supervised areas only and respect posted signs and warnings.
  • Never dive into shallow water, and if you don’t know how deep the water is, don’t dive.
  • If you are swimming in a natural body of water, be alert to the currents. Learn what to do if you get caught in a current, and if you are finding it hard to swim then head to shore.
  • Always wear a life jacket when boating, jet skiing, water skiing, rafting or fishing.

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