Safety in and Around Water

Avoiding accidents and injuries in and around water

Fatalities from drowning have declined in recent years. In 2008, there were 195 deaths in England and Wales due to drowning and it is now one of the least common causes of accidental death. However, there are also other dangers associated with water, such as waterborne infections and nonfatal injury.

Preventing drowning and near-drowning

The situations that most often result in drowning or near-drowning are strong currents or very cold water and swimming or boating after drinking alcohol.

Understanding water conditions

Even confident swimmers should always get information about local swimming conditions and heed advice that is given.

Avoid swimming in very cold water. Water below 5°C (41°F) stiffens muscles and may cause cardiac arrest.

Avoiding alcohol

Many victims of drowning accidents have a significant amount of alcohol in their blood (see Alcohol and health). Never drink alcohol before swimming or boating.

Supervising children

Do not leave young children alone when they are swimming or in the bath, even when the water is shallow. If you have a pond or swimming pool in your garden, fence it off or cover it.

Avoiding hazards in water

Drowning is not the only hazard associated with water. Shallow water, hidden objects, marine and freshwater animals, and infections all present dangers.

Shallow water and hidden objects

Every year, people injure their spines by diving into water that is too shallow or that contains hidden objects. Check the depth of water before diving or jumping, and check for rocks or fallen trees below the surface.

Animal life and infections

On holiday, follow warnings about local dangers, such as sharks, and swim only in designated safe areas. Coral can cause cuts and abrasions.

The sea near coastal resorts may be polluted with sewage. Freshwater contaminated with rat or fox urine can cause a potentially fatal infection called leptospirosis. In tropical countries, avoid swimming in lakes or other bodies of fresh water (unless they are known to be safe) as there is a risk of schistosomiasis and other water-borne parasitic infections.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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