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Be water smart: Drowning is preventable

Trauma Services BC has tips to keep you and your loved ones safe around water this summer.
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With summer in full swing, more British Columbians are heading to pools, rivers, lakes and the ocean to cool down and relax. While water activities can be fun, they come with a risk of drowning for those who aren’t prepared.  

Drowning can happen quickly and quietly. In recent years B.C. had an average of 74 drowning deaths per year, and it is the leading cause of death for children aged one to four. 

“Drowning deaths are always devastating because they happen unexpectedly to healthy individuals, and so many involve small children,” said Dr. David Evans, trauma surgeon at Vancouver General Hospital. “Parents need to be hyper vigilant when kids are around water.”
Even surviving a near-drowning experience can have serious consequences. A person can suffer life-long effects such as brain damage, and an incident in which water has entered the lungs can cause complications – even death – up to three days following the incident. 

Drowning is preventable 
Using common sense is key in preventing drowning. “Adolescents and adults need to be smart about alcohol and other intoxicants around water,” adds Dr. Evans. He also recommends that wherever possible, parents ensure their children complete the swimming programs offered by the Red Cross. “The best investment is to become a strong swimmer.”

July 21 to 27 is National Drowning Prevention Week, designated by the Lifesaving Society of BC and Yukon to bring awareness and education to prevent drowning. 

There are many ways to be water smart to keep you and your loved ones safe.

  • Build a fence with a self-closing, self-latching gate to surround all pools, including inflatable pools. 
  • Make sure children are well supervised by responsible adults at all times in and around water. 
  • Enrol yourself and your child in swimming lessons.
  • Ensure everyone is wearing an approved personal flotation device (PFD) or lifejacket on a boat, at the beach, or at the lake.
  • Learn CPR and/or lifesaving techniques.
  • Refrain from using alcohol before or during swimming or boating activities.
Stats and facts
  • In B.C., 60 per cent of drowning deaths among children and youth happen in natural waters during swimming or activities such as boating and jet skiing
  • The greatest number of drowning deaths occur among males in natural water (46 per cent) and water transport (28 per cent).
  • Drowning is the leading cause of death in B.C. for toddlers aged one to four, who tend to drown in bathtubs or swimming pools.
  • Among the survivors of near-drowning, 20 per cent sustain permanent brain damage.
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