It wouldn’t be summer in Texas without a trip to the lake or a splash in the pool, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that drowning is the fifth leading cause of unintentional injury death in the United States.
Red Cross certified water safety instructor Michael Nicholson has been training life guards in North Texas at North Star Aquatic Safety Instruction for decades. He said parents taking their children to the pool this summer need to keep their eyes on them at all times.
“The No. 1 thing is someone needs to be watching the water at all times,” Nicholson said. “That means one parent needs to designate a person who is watching the kids in the pool and that’s their only job. They don’t get to socialize when they need to be watching the kids.”
It’s a rule easier said than done. Parents can get distracted talking to one another, or a young child can need more attention; but Nicholson said the key to following this rule is designating a person beforehand who will watch the children, much like a designated driver is decided before a night out on the town.
For parents with infants and toddlers, flotation devices like arm floaties can be tempting to buy, but Nicholson cautions parents on using them because they’re not Coast Guard approved.
“I never recommend floaties, the inflatable arm wings, because they’re not Coast Guard certified,” he said. “Kids jump in with their arms above their head, and those things pop right off.”
In their place, he recommends parents purchase a flotation device that has a foam pad like a life jacket.
Lake swimming poses even more challenges. Earlier this spring, a 17-year-old is presumed to have drowned after jumping off a party barge in Lake Lavon.
Nicholson said life jackets are essential for individuals going boating or swimming in a lake.
“The life jacket isn’t there for when you’re conscious and when you’re able to swim,” he said. “The life jacket is there for when something goes wrong and you’re incapable of swimming for yourself. Getting thrown from the boat, or you’re inebriated.”
Another danger in lakes are hazards under the surface, such as tree stumps and branches. Nicholson said he would never dive into a lake headfirst because the water level in lakes changes so rapidly. A spot that was safe to dive into one week may not be safe the next. A feet first entry is the safest way to get into the water.
As temperatures in North Texas start soaring into the triple digits, cases of heat exhaustion and hot car deaths increase. Anna Fire Chief Tim Gothard said the department does see an increase in calls.
“We do see a slight increase in heat-related emergencies during the summer months,” he said.
Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are most common in children and the elderly. The CDC recommends that people who are outside in the heat or inside without air conditioning drink plenty of fluids, including sports drinks that replace salt and minerals lost while sweating. People should also use sunscreen and wear lightweight clothing. During a heat wave, neighbors and family should also monitor the elderly and call to check on them daily.
Children, infants, toddlers and pets are the most at risk from hot car deaths. The CDC reports that even with the windows cracked, the temperature inside a vehicle can rise by 20 degrees in 10 minutes. Parents should never leave their children inside an unattended vehicle and take precautions, such as leaving their purse in the backseat to keep from forgetting a sleeping child.
Another common practice during the summer is road trips, and while sightseeing may be planned, having a vehicle break down isn’t.
At Westdykes Garage in Anna, owner Willie Westdyke said he expects to see an increase in customers this summer.
“We have a lot of customers that before a vacation they come in and want an inspection done on their car before they leave on a trip,” Westdyke said.
Before heading out to that family reunion drivers should have their hoses, belts, tires, coolant, oil, and wiper blades checked.
“They could get out on a trip where a hose ruptures and breaks,” he said. “The engine could overheat and do severe damage to the motor.”
It doesn’t matter where people find themselves this summer, whether that’s in a car, pool, lake, or beach, planning ahead for the trip will help keep them safe.