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With temperatures steadily on the rise, Monday, May 25, 2015 marked the official beginning of swim season for many pools and lakes across the state. Although warm weather is traditionally categorized with thoughts of fun, sun, and sand, the summer months can raise numerous safety concerns for water lovers.
According to information provided by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, a recent study in four southeastern states concluded that alcohol is a major contributor in over half of all fatal boating accidents. Not only is alcohol a danger to those who choose to enjoy the warm weather out on the boat, but for casual swimmers as well. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries explained that alcohol can significantly impair the user’s judgement and ability to swim by suppressing the natural gag reflex and disorienting the individual, causing a decrease in coordination and strength.
Although the use of alcohol on the water can possess a high level of danger, substance use is not the only critical safety concern. The Virginia Department of Health alerted that in 2006, half of all drownings across the state involved children under the age of 14. “Most drownings involving young children occur in residential settings. Most pool and spa drownings or near drownings occur when adults are present and engaged in routine activities. Most child drowning victims were last seen indoors or outdoors away from the pool and under the supervision of a responsible adult. Children under age one often drown in bathtubs, buckets, or toilets as well.” In order to prevent a relaxing afternoon from taking a tragic turn, a responsible caregiver should always be present to supervise young children and adolescents around water. Additionally, the caregiver should be equipped with the proper knowledge to respond effectively in case of an emergency. Public swim areas generally have lifeguards on duty during operation hours; however, it is still the responsibility of the caregiver to be watchful at all times.
While water safety is an important part of making sure everyone has a good time, hitting the pool or lake doesn’t have to be dangerous. To minimize these risks, never swim alone or in an area not intended for swimming. Designated swim areas have been approved for recreational use and provide the safest water experience.