The Ministry of Health provides the population with a guide of recommendations to avoid drowning and injuries in aquatic environments and to enjoy safe bathing this summer.
Recommendations to enjoy a safe bath during the summer
The Ministry reminds us that drowning is an important public health problem and stresses that aquatic incidents can be prevented with appropriate behaviours at beaches, swimming pools and other bathing places.
The World Health Organization (WHO) adopted its first resolution on drowning prevention this year at the 76th World Health Assembly in May. The resolution accepts the UN General Assembly’s invitation for WHO to coordinate action within the UN system on drowning prevention and to facilitate the observance of World Drowning Prevention Day on July 25 each year.
According to World Health Organization estimates, in 2019, an estimated 236,000 people died from drowning worldwide. According to the latest consolidated data from the National Institute of Statistics (INE), 510 people (419 men and 91 women) died in Spain in 2021 as a result of submersion and drowning in an aquatic environment.
In our country, the highest drowning rates per 100,000 inhabitants are in the older age groups of 80-84 years (2.9), 75-79 years (2.62) and 70-74 years (1.75), followed by 20-24 years (1.75).
The devastating consequences of drowning are highly preventable through measures such as installing barriers to control access to water in swimming pools and aquatic environments, teaching school-age children swimming and water safety skills (meaning of flags and signs, use of life jackets, action in undertow currents, basic rescue and resuscitation manoeuvres, etc.) or training people in the environment in safe rescue and resuscitation.
Several risk factors related to drowning have been identified, and knowledge of them can help prevent accidents. They are mainly the adoption of risky behaviours, moments of relaxation in the supervision of minors, bathing in unsupervised areas, consumption of alcohol and other drugs near or in the water, medical conditions such as epilepsy, and tourists unfamiliar with the particularities of local waters. It should be remembered that special care should be taken with both the elderly and minors.
Prevention: recommendations for safe swimming
The best prevention for children is vigilance, teaching them to swim and educating them to respect safety rules. Drownings occur quickly and silently, most of the time the victim has been out of sight for less than five minutes. Therefore, keep an eye on them at all times when they are in or playing near the water and do not delegate this responsibility to an older child.
Also, never leave an infant or toddler alone in a bathtub or inflatable pool at any time. A baby can drown in just a few inches of water.
Make sure the pool you go to with your family has a lifeguard. Remember that watching over your young children is your responsibility, and the lifeguard’s responsibility is to rescue and lifeguard when necessary.
Make sure your young children are not allowed free access to the pool.
It is very dangerous to run around the edge of the pool or play push and shove. You could slip and hit the edge or injure others.
If you can’t swim, or can’t swim well, use a life jacket for swimming and always use it for water sports. Inflatable floats are not recommended.
On the beach, respect the flags. Never bathe if it is red, and yellow is dangerous: bathe only up to the waist and with caution. In addition, bathe in supervised beaches and always respect the indications of the lifeguards. On the other hand, do not overestimate your physical condition or swimming ability: in the sea, if you get tired or have difficulty getting back, swim on your back, moving your legs only until you get close to the shore. Finally, if you feel you are being pulled by a current, swim parallel to the beach and, once you have left the beach, swim towards the shore.
Do not swim in areas where swimming is prohibited.
Always bathe in company, particularly if you are an elderly person or if you have a health problem.
Bathing at night is very dangerous. If something happens to you, no one will be able to see you.
Remember that alcohol consumption decreases your ability to react to danger or may lead to risky behavior.
Diving headfirst from a great height, such as bridges, trees or balconies, can cause very serious injuries. Before diving, make sure that there is sufficient depth and that there are no obstacles. This is especially true in turbid water.
Mats and other inflatable objects should be used with caution, as they can quickly pull you in.
Get out of the water immediately if you get tired or feel cold.
Knowledge of basic first aid in the population can contribute to a better response to this type of emergency. In this way, actions taken before the arrival of emergency services can help reduce the risk of serious injury or death.