What are the most common water safety issues doctors see? (2024)

What are the most common water safety issues doctors see? (1) Even if you know how to swim, medical experts say you can still be at risk. (Getty Images)

A version of this story originally published on June 3, 2022. It was updated with new information on May 2, 2024.

As summer begins, people everywhere are looking to beat the heat in pools, rivers and lakes. While the water can be refreshing, there is always a risk of drowning if safety measures aren’t followed.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the leading cause of death for children between 1 and 4 years old in the United States. Nearly 40% of people treated in emergency departments for drowning injuries need to be hospitalized or are transferred for further care. Drowning injuries can cause brain damage and other serious health problems.

To help you make the most of your summer while staying safe,Robert Culley, I.V., D.O., chief medical officer ofVCU Health Tappahannock Hospital, discusses how you can stay safe in the water.

What are the most common water safety issues you see?

We see a variety of water safety events during the summer, depending on the area.We can see anything from injuries related to boating, such as motor boat crashes or falling and slipping on a boat, to drownings, to cuts that get infected from being in contaminated water.Most often, we see injuries associated with slipping on rocks, boat slips or docks.Drownings do occur, and we see these most often in young children, but people of all ages are at risk.

What are the top three water safety tips that you would want to share with people?

  • Swim in groups or pairs.
  • When on open water, keep a personal flotation device available.
  • Don't consume alcohol or drugs, as they can slow your reflexes and impact your judgment.

What about staying safe in the pool?

Swimming pools are often seen as “safe” because the water is clear and they are often close to the home. Swimming pools can be easily accessible by children. In addition, diving into pools that are too shallow leads to neck injuries.

My best piece of advice: Know your limitations as a swimmer. If you cannot swim, do not go into water deeper than you can stand with your head above water. Not diving into shallow water is another way to practice pool safety. Keep an eye on your children, even if they aren’t in the pool. Children playing near a pool can still fall in.

What are ways to stay safe in open water, such as rivers, lakes and oceans?

Open water safety is extremely important. In open water, it’s a good idea to swim with others instead of swimming alone. I recommend avoiding any diving because open water is often too murky to see the bottom. This means that diving could lead to injuries because of unknown depth or debris on the bottom.

What are some safety tips for boating?

In Virginia, it is required for individuals operating a boat to take a course in water/boating safety. Having a way to communicate with others not on the boat is really important.Make sure you have flotation devices and personal flotation devices, such as life jackets that fit appropriately, for all persons on the boat, including children. Virginia law states that there must be one life jacket for every person on a boat and children under the age of 13 must wear life jackets.

Lastly, informing people of where you are boating and when you expect to return is important.

What are signs of drowning and how can someone help?

Drownings can occur within a couple of minutes and can easily go unnoticed. Most often, the person will be silent in an upright position in the water with their arms out to their sides. The person’s head will sometimes be above water but will likely be very low in the water. The person’s arms will be essentially slapping the water to the side with no effective movements.

The best thing to do to help someone who is drowning is to have someone who is trained to assist the victim. If there is no lifeguard, give the victim a floating device within arm’s reach. Despite the desire to jump in the water to save someone, you can risk your own life. Individuals struggling in the water often drag the rescuer under the water in an attempt to save themselves.

If someone knows how to swim, are they still at risk for drowning?

Just because you know how to swim does not mean you are not at risk. Many swimmers have drowned. From events such as riptide, to individuals who are intoxicated, to fatigue or muscle cramps, even the best swimmers can face the very real risk of drowning.

Swim lessons for adults and children are available at VCU RecSports.

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What are the most common water safety issues doctors see? (2024)


What are the safety risks of water? ›

Hazards and Risks
  • Strong currents and fast-flowing water. Check the current by throwing a leaf into the water to see the speed it travels. ...
  • Submerged objects such as rocks, snags and tree branches. ...
  • Slippery banks and uneven surfaces. ...
  • Changing seasonal patterns and floodwater. ...
  • Cold water.

What are the 3 important tips about water safety? ›

Never swim alone; swim with lifeguards and/or water watchers present. Wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket appropriate for your weight and size and the water activity. Always wear a life jacket while boating, regardless of swimming skill. Swim sober.

What are the safer 3 components of water safety? ›

There are three dimensions of risk in every drowning; the water, the person and the response. Thus we created the Safer 3 Message as a simple way to educate people simply, quickly and easily. We chose “safer” over “safe” because no one is ever completely free from drowning risk when they are enjoying the water.

What do you mean by water safety? ›

Water Safety is defined as the procedures, precautions and policies associated with safety in, on and around bodies of water, where there is a risk of injury or drowning. It has applications in several occupations, sports and recreational activities, and above all at home and in real life.

What is the most serious threat to water? ›

Water pollution is a serious threat to the world's water. Microbes, salts, and pollution from agriculture and industry all contribute to the problem. Global warming will likely have major impacts on the world's freshwater resources.

What is the most common hazard associated with water use? ›

Watch Out for Water Safety

Types of water-related hazards that may result include mold, Legionella (the cause of Legionnaires' disease), and contamination with metals from corroded plumbing, such as lead and copper.

What is the number one water safety rule? ›

Never Swim Alone

They are also trained to respond quickly when something happens. In addition to swimming with a lifeguard nearby, a good rule of thumb — for children and adults — is to use the buddy system while swimming.

What are five rules for staying safe in the water? ›


What are 5 ways you can ensure you are safe around water? ›

Following the open water safety tips below will also ensure you have the most amount of fun by reducing the risks and hazards that come with open water.
  1. Swim in a Designated Swimming Area. ...
  2. When in Doubt, Get Out. ...
  3. Know the Weather and Water Conditions. ...
  4. Never Swim Alone. ...
  5. Choose the Right Equipment. ...
  6. Understand Currents.
Mar 13, 2023

Who should be in the deep end of a pool? ›

The deep end is only for strong swimmers.

At some pools, children must pass a swim test to enter the deep end. They should be able to swim the length of the pool and tread water.

What are the four parts of the water safety? ›

The 4 parts of the Water Safety Code are: • Spot the dangers. Take safety advice. Don't go alone. Learn how to help.

What are safety rules? ›

Definition. A principle or regulation governing actions, procedures or devices intended to lower the occurrence or risk of injury, loss and danger to persons, property or the environment.

What is safe vs clean water? ›

Counterintuitively, the murky water in this situation is actually safer to consume. This is why the distinction between safe water and clean water is so vital because clear or clean water is not always safe to drink. The reverse is also true, that safe water does not always actually look clear and uncontaminated.

What are the four key water safety messages? ›

*The four key water safety messages include:
  • Always swim in a safe place.
  • Always swim with an adult.
  • If you fall in, float, breathe, relax.
  • If someone else in trouble, call 999/112.

Which of the safety tips is the most important in swimming? ›

Swim in designated areas supervised by lifeguards. Always swim with a buddy; do not allow anyone to swim alone. Provide close and constant attention to children you are supervising, even when a lifeguard is present, no matter how well the child can swim or how shallow the water.

How do you ensure safe water? ›

Make Your Water Safe by:
  1. Boiling. If water is cloudy, allow to settle, then skim the clean water above the sediment. ...
  2. Disinfect by using: Unscented household chlorine bleach or iodine (useful against most, but not all, harmful viruses or bacteria. ...
  3. Filtering.
Mar 18, 2021

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