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VIDEO: Practice smart water safety this summer

Family Health
Jun 4, 2019

St. Joseph’s/Candler Primary Care Physician Dr. Russell Lake offers tips to prevent drowning

Summer is the perfect time to gather with family and friends by the pool or at the beach. And while there’s nothing wrong with a little fun in the sun, it’s important to remember that drownings can happen in a matter of seconds.

Dr. Russell Lake knows that all too well. The St. Joseph’s/Candler Primary Care Physician in Pooler has treated symptoms of drowning as a doctor and experienced it first-hand as a father.

Dr. Russell Lake, Primary Care Physician with St. Joseph's/Candler Primary Care located in PoolerHis son was out of sight for about a minute – long enough to go down the slide and into the water. The then 3-year-old was found face down and unresponsive. Luckily, he was quickly pulled from the water and revived. The now 7-year-old is doing just fine.

“It reminds me how important it is to be safe around the water and how prevalent water events and drownings can be,” Dr. Lake says.

Avoid the terms dry drowning, secondary drowning

Drowning is defined by the World Health Organization as “the process of experiencing respiratory impairment from submersion/immersion in liquid.”

Dr. Lake avoids terms such as “dry drowning,” “delayed drowning” or “secondary drowning,” which are not legitimate medically recognized diagnoses. Dr. Lake wants to ensure parents learn accurate information about drowning because it’s vital for prevention, rescue and treatment.

Drowning is the most common cause of accidental death in children ages 1 to 4 in the United States. About 3,500 children of all ages die from drowning each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For every one child that has a fatal drowning, there are five more children who are seen in an emergency department for symptoms related to that experience. After a child or adult has had a drowning event, Dr. Lake says to watch for these symptoms that require medical follow up in an emergency room, urgent care or by your primary care physician:

  • Persistent cough for more than a couple of minutes
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Foam at the mouth
  • Changes in behavior

“If you are just not sure, the safest option would be to have them evaluated,” Dr. Lake says.

If brought to the emergency department, typically a child will be observed for four to eight hours to make sure symptoms do not worsen.  Beyond that time, Dr. Lake says it’s extremely rare for patients to have any effects to drowning.

Prevention and safety tips

“Interestingly, statistics say that 88 percent of child drownings happen when an adult is actually present,” Dr. Lake says. “There are some additional preventive steps we can take.”

Personally, Dr. Lake likes to have a “water watcher” by the pool. That is adults taking turns accepting the responsibility watching the water like a lifeguard would.

Other water safety tips that are important for both adults and children include:

  • Supervise children
  • Learn to swim
  • Learn CPR
  • Use the “buddy system,” meaning do not swim alone
  • Swim in areas with lifeguards, if possible
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Use life jackets – air-filled or foam toys are not safety devices
  • Know weather conditions
  • Be aware of waves and rip currents
  • Have a locked barrier around pools

For more information about Dr. Lake or to make an appointment with the St. Joseph’s/Candler Primary Care office located in Pooler, visit our Physician Network website.

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