Healthy Living – July 16, 2019

The snow and ice-bound days of winter have finally faded and the glorious Maine summer has arrived! Natives and visitors alike flock to the many treasures our amazing state has to offer during this season. With the longest coast line in the US and a multitude of lakes and rivers – not to mention back yard and hotel pools – many people are around bodies of water in the summer.

A Mental Health Coordinator was approved for Bay District Schools. (MGN)

Unfortunately, drowning happens - It is often silent and takes only minutes to strike. Water safety is a reality everyone should think about especially this time of year. Fortunately, following some simple recommendations can make all the difference in the world.
Drowning is of particular concern for children of all ages. It is the number one cause of injury death in 1-4-year-olds and the number one cause of unintentional injury death (not suicide/homicide) in US children and adolescents (5-19 years old). Within these statistics there are 2 distinct risk groups: toddlers and adolescents. Males predominate in both groups but the similarities end there. However, for both age groups having multiple "layers of protection" for drowning prevention is going to be most effective.

The five evidence-based "layers" are:
1. Four-sided pool fencing
2. Life jackets
3. Swim lessons
4. Appropriate supervision
5. Lifeguard presence

Toddlers have the highest drowning rate of any group. The majority of toddlers drown in swimming pools. In most of these cases the child was not expected to be at the pool or water site. The major problem is a lack of physical barriers around the water in addition to even temporary loss of supervision. Having pools with four-sided surrounding fencing (with a self-closing/latching gate) is hugely protective to this group. If all pools had this, more than 50% of toddler swimming pool drownings could be prevented. Supervision of toddlers around water should be "touch supervision" meaning the adult is never more than an arm's length away from the child. Also, the supervisor should not be multi-tasking while supervising young children in or around water.
Adolescents 15-19 years old have the second highest drowning rate. Nearly 75% of these occur in natural bodies of water. Overestimating their skills and underestimating their danger, as well as risk-taking behaviors that are expected in teenagers contribute to this high rate of drowning. Substance abuse is a very significant factor; alcohol alone contributes to somewhere between 30-70% of adolescent drowning deaths. Obviously, prevention is a very different challenge in this age group. Education of adolescents about these risk factors, swimming proficiency, lifeguard's presence and use of life- jackets could help.
So, whether you're basking in Maine's beauty next to a pool, a lake, a river or the ocean – please do your best to stay safe!

Denny et al, Prevention of Drowning. Pediatrics, Volume 143, number 5, May 2019