Well, the kids are out of school, power bills are almost as high as mortgage payments, and staying fresh and dry requires several clothing changes a day. Happy summer y’all!
Summertime in Mobile usually means plenty of fun plans like BBQs, pool parties and trips to our beautiful local beaches. However, summer can also be a dangerous time of year in certain situations.
For example, if you’re planning on heading to Colorado this summer to try out one of those fancy new cannabis vacations, maybe spend at least a few minutes researching what you’re about to put in your body before gobbling up enough high potency THC-infused chocolate to keep pothead pals Willie Nelson and Snoop Lion flying high all night. As New York Times’ columnist Maureen Dowd taught the Internet last week, sometimes a rendezvous with pot can turn out to be pretty damn unpleasant if it isn’t used responsibly.
Take it easy on the ganja, stay hydrated, and be careful not to get overheated when working or playing outside. Also, watch out for motorcycles sharing our roadways, and don’t drink and drive or operate watercraft. Other than that, most of us adults should be all right. This time of year, it’s the little ones I worry about.
The last thing I feel like doing in the summer is getting serious, and I enjoy talking about sad things even less, but I’m going to put on my mom hat for a bit and do a little friendly nagging. Remember, it’s only because I love you and I want you all to have a safe and happy summer.
One of the biggest dangers facing children this season is drowning. There have already been several drownings in our area this year, including Logan Fontana, a 4-year-old little boy who drowned in Pensacola Bay May 24 when he fell off his grandfather’s boat after briefly removing his life jacket. Most of us anxiously followed the Memorial Day weekend reports of the search for the missing child, dreading the heartbreaking, but almost inevitable, outcome.
One of the most tragic aspects of child drowning is that in most cases it is a completely preventable occurrence. All of us parents like to think it’s a rare event that could never happen to our family, but it’s far more common than any of us would like to believe.
I can think of at least six families I have known personally who have lost a child to drowning. The first occurred when I was a kid, when my neighbors’ baby rolled his walker to the edge of the family pool and flipped in headfirst while his distracted parents were entertaining guests at a cookout.
The most recent occurred when an old friend’s 4-year-old drowned at a pool party two years ago. The child, who was supervised by adults and swimming with friends and family members, had been playing in the shallow end and ended up getting in over his head without anyone noticing until it was too late.
Sadly, neither of those stories is especially rare. Approximately 800 children drown in the United States each year. It is the number one cause of accidental death for children under the age of 5, and the second leading cause of death among all children under 15. For every child that actually dies from drowning, five more visit the emergency room for non-fatal injuries related to submersion, with about half of those experiencing serious injuries that may include brain damage and permanent disability.
Seventy-five percent of kids who drown are missing for less than five minutes. Children can fall in the water in the blink of an eye and death often occurs before anyone even notices they’ve wandered off. Even older kids with swimming experience can get in trouble in the water and quietly drown while surrounded by oblivious friends and family members.
Drowning is often called the “silent killer” because it happens so quickly and quietly, and it can be difficult to recognize it even when it happens right in front of you. Drowning children almost never scream or splash or flail dramatically, as many of us might picture. More often, younger children fall in head first and sink straight to the bottom, barely even making a sound.
Similarly, older kids who become overwhelmed in the water rarely make a scene. During the instinctive drowning response, a person is unable to speak or wave their arms for help. Instead they remain quietly upright with their arms extended laterally, engaged in the involuntary response of trying to press down against the water in an attempt to raise the body enough to breathe. Their mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water as they silently struggle for air.
At first glance they may appear to be simply treading water, which explains why so many kids drown with adults nearby, and in some cases even watching it occur. A closer look will often reveal glassy or closed eyes, head tilted back, quiet gasps for breath, vertical legs that don’t seem to be kicking effectively, or the appearance of climbing an invisible ladder. If a child seems too quiet in the water, always ask them if they’re OK and wait for a response.
Effective supervision is the only guarantee against drowning. Children should never be left alone in or near the water, even for a moment. Many a tragedy has occurred when a parent steps away to answer a phone or becomes engrossed in a poolside conversation.
Pools should be fenced with self-latching gates, and children should wear properly fitted life jackets at all times on boats and other watercraft. Finally, make sure your children know how to swim or at least float in the water. There are numerous swim classes available in Mobile, including ISR self-rescue lessons for babies as young as 6 months.
Nothing is more dangerous than thinking tragedy can’t happen to someone you love.