Be proactive to stop drowning during swimming season

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Drownings. They’re a tragic part of the Canadian summer. They’re also preventable.

Recently, a six-year-old girl drowned at a house party in Oshawa. On the same weekend, a young man died near Wasaga Beach while drifting in an inflatable raft.

Considered one of the most devastating of mortal events, drownings are tragedies on their own, but are made worse when they take place in the perfect summer setting of heat, water and company. Summer months, particularly July, are considered high season for drowning, which is an insidious death partly as it happens so quickly, sometimes so silently — and, in many cases, when the water is calm and the day is clear.

According to the World Health Organization, “drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide,” accounting for 7% of all injury-related deaths.

In Canada, the numbers have been dropping but are still grim, and, according to the Lifesaving Society, (a charitable organization working to prevent drowning and water-related injury), the third leading cause of unintentional death among Canadians under 60 years of age — surpassed only by motor vehicle collisions and poisoning. A recent Allstate/Leger survey revealed that 80% of all drowning victims are men.


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According to the Government of Canada’s leading cause of death statistics, “drowning is a leading cause of death for children and infants.” A baby or child can drown in only inches of water, in many cases, without making a sound, and in as few as 30 seconds.

Sadly, research from the Allstate report shows 92% of child drownings were due to absent or distracted supervision, and the majority of those who did drown “we’re within 15m of safety, such as shallow water/shore, pool edge, floatation device,  boat,” even someone close by.

And yet common sense reveals drowning is preventable — swimming classes, life vests, and constant supervision are key. That said, COVID-19 physical distance measures “have made it extremely difficult for Canadians to have access to swimming lessons and general water safety education — making for a potentially dangerous combination,” notes the Allstate/Leger news release, citing the fact more Canadians will most likely be heading out to cottages this summer where the lure of a nice, cool dip on a hot summer day is tempting beyond words.


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Water safety remains a top priority for everyone, particularly children, a major concern with the Lifesaving Society given many children will not have had access to any swimming classes in the last 16 months, but will now have access to open waters this season.

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What can you do? Be proactive.

Never leave a child unattended. A glance at a text message can mean life or death.

Be your child’s lifeguard. Provide constant supervision without distractions — and if you are not within arm’s reach of your child, you are too far away.  A lifejacket is a tool to prevent drownings, but is not a substitute for adult supervision, notes the Allstate/Leger report.

Keep in mind, a drowning victim doesn’t often frantically splash for help — most of the struggle is underwater and when or if the victims’ head does surface they are gasping for air, not calling for help.

If you’re an adult, swim in a lifeguard-supervised area whenever possible. Update your swimming skills.

Lastly, should you ever find yourself in a situation where a person needs emergency assistance, be prepared to perform first aid. (check out Red Cross-Swimming and Water Safety Tips & Resources (


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