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Health department stressing importance of water safety

As families enjoy local beaches and swimming pools this summer, residents are reminded to keep the safety of children, especially those under 10 years of age, in mind.

Durham Region Health Department is encouraging residents to remember important water safety tips when enjoying a swim in pools, lakes and rivers this summer.

According to Parachute Canada, drowning is the third highest cause of accidental death in Canada and the second highest cause of preventable death for children 10 and younger.

All children are at risk for drowning, but health department staff explain children under five-years-old are especially vulnerable as they don’t understand the potential dangers of water, may be unable to swim, and have small lungs that can quickly fill with water.

Whenever children are near or in any water, it is important that they have adult supervision; adults should stand within arm’s reach of any child under five-years old, or any older child who does not swim well.

Older children should not be relied on to supervise younger children and there should always be an experienced swimmer in proximity whenever the child is in or around water.

Young children should also wear properly-fitted life-jackets when in or around water and on boats, as children can fall into the water quickly and silently without warning. It’s important the life-jacket fits a child’s weight, is safety approved and is buckled properly. Inflatable toys such as water wings and blow-up rings are not safety devices and should not be used in place of a life-jacket.

“While we often focus on children when it comes to water safety as they’re at greatest risk of drowning, it’s important for older children and adults to be aware of the hazards as well,” said Lynn Ryan, a public health nurse with the health department. “Adults and older children can also be at risk as they may overestimate their stamina, strength and skill level, underestimate water conditions such as currents and depth, or may engage in risky behaviours such as swimming while intoxicated.”