2022 was a bad year for water related fatalities in the UK, with a staggering 597 accidental drownings. Fortunately, most drownings are preventable and a little bit of knowledge can save a life. With the school summer holidays about to kick in and water being oh so appealing in hot weather, there's no time like the present to learn how to prevent a drowning. Find out when you need to be most careful on holiday and what colour swimsuits are almost invisible under water.
So what are the statistics?
A recent survey from the Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS) found:
- 44% of accidental drownings happen between May and August
- 62% of accidental drownings happen in inland water
- Only 30% of parents surveyed said they were “very confident” that their child knows how to stay safe in and around water
What do you need to know when on holiday outside the UK?
- Be aware that the most common time for children to have accidents on holiday is within the first hour when parents are unpacking and distracted. Parents should take care during this time to make sure that they know where their children are.
- You are your family’s lifeguard. Lifeguard standards differ outside of the UK and Ireland. Always supervise children and keep them within arms length.
- Do your research. Check the safety arrangements of any water-based activities and if there is lifeguard cover at the pool/beach. Know what to do and who to call in an emergency.
- Do not use inflatables in open water. Inflatable dinghies or lilos are a well-known hazard – each year there are a high number of incidents where people on inflatables are blown out to sea. Instead, use them in sheltered and confined spaces such as rock pools or swimming pools.
- Check bathing sites for hazards such as rocks, piers, breakwater (it could indicate a rip current) or coral reefs.
- Take time to check the depth, water flow and layout of hotel / apartment pools.
- Do not enter the water after drinking alcohol.
What are rip currents? And what should you tell your child?
In the UK, the majority of times the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) are called out to an incident, there will be a rip current involved. Rips are strong currents running out to sea, which can quickly drag people away from the shallows and out to deeper water. Rips are especially powerful in larger surf, but can also occur around river mouths, estuaries and man-made structures like piers and groynes.
Rip currents can be difficult to spot, but are sometimes identified by a channel of churning, choppy water on the sea's surface. Even the most experienced beachgoers can be caught out by rips, so don’t be afraid to ask lifeguards for advice. They will show you how you can identify and avoid rips.
Advise your child that if they are getting dragged out to sea by a rip current DO NOT swim against the current ie in a straight line back to the beach. Instead swim parallel to the beach – this makes sure you are swimming out of and not back into the rip current. Once the dragging effect stops, swim back towards the beach, being careful to stay in a straight line to avoid drifting back into the rip current. If they can stand in the rip, encourage your child to wade through the water (instead of swimming) whilst waving their arms and shouting for help.
Drowning accidents often occur when people never even intended to be in the water – how?
Kids slip, trip and fall all the time. What if they are near a pool when this happens? Whilst this might not feel relevant when you’re at home, it suddenly becomes much more likely around a pool on holiday. And if they never intended to be in the water, you are unlikely to be alert to the fact that they are IN the water in the first place.
So how can you prepare your child for accidentally being in water?
1. Take a minute: make your child aware that the initial shock of being in cold water will cause them to gasp and panic. This is normal. If they know this, they are less likely to let the shock overwhelm them.
2. Relax and float: Tell your child to float on their back - tell little ones to make a star shape on their back - while catching their breath. If there is anything to hold on to, get them to hang on to it to help them float.
3. Keep calm: tell your child that once they are calm and floating they need to shout for help, or swim for safety if they are able to.
Wearing certain swimwear can make a HUGE difference
Swimsuits are now all over the shops and it is important to think about the colour of swimwear you purchase for your child.
If your child were to get in trouble in the water, lifeguards and other people will need to get to them as quickly as possible. This means putting them in swimwear that is bright and easily spotted, both in clear water (top picture of each colour) or murky beach waves (bottom picture). You can quite clearly see that pale blue or white costumes are best avoided.
We really hope that reading this blog will help you to have a safe and happy holiday, or enjoy a family beach trip or two this summer. Have fun folks!
Mini First Aid x
Sources: The Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS) and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI)
A holiday essential
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