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Drowning is the second most common cause of unintentional injury-related death in children ages 1 to 14 years. “We can’t overemphasize for everyone to be really conscientious about water safety,” says Dr. Hartwell Lin, a John Muir Health ER physician.

“The cases we see are tragic,” says Lin, adding that for every death in this country due to drowning, there are four nonfatal submersion injuries, which can result in long-term memory problems, developmental delay, lung damage and even a permanent vegetative state.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), parents shouldn’t leave young children unsupervised near water, even if they have had swim lessons. The AAP recommends “touch supervision,” which means that the child is always within arm’s reach. “It only takes a few seconds for a tragedy to occur that could change your life forever,” says Dr. David Birdsall, who is also a John Muir Health ER physician.

Older children should follow the buddy system, Lin says, and boaters should be sure to use appropriate, well-fitting life jackets. Boaters should also avoid all alcohol and sedatives, and be certain that everyone in the boat knows such survival skills as low-energy survival floating, which is taught in swimming classes.

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