Athens Review, Athens, Texas


June 13, 2014

Drownings can decrease by learning to swim

Athens — Working for the newspaper, I have the opportunity to report on what is happening throughout our community. 

This week I visited with kids who were taking swimming lessons. It brought me back in time, to when I was a kid growing up on the beaches of Florida.

My father believed everyone should know how to swim. If not swim, at least save yourself from drowning. My father's way of teaching was to throw you in the water, and  you would sink or swim. 

I don't recommend that technique. But needless to say, I learned to swim before I learned to walk.

I don't remember not knowing how to swim, and I have never been scare of the water. But I do respect  water.

Growing up on the beach, learning to swim at an early age came in handy.  When I was about 12 or 13-years-old, I found myself in a rip current, or what is sometimes referred to as an undertow.

Swimming in the ocean may take a little different skill than swimming in a pool. If you can swim in the ocean, you definitely should be able to swim in a pool or lake.

There are a lot of things to be aware of in the ocean, such as, rip-currents. If you have never been in a Rip current you don't know what you have missed.

Rip-currents are powerful, narrow channels of fast-moving water. Rip-currents often form at low spots or breaks in sandbars. A person can panic when they encounter a rip-current. If you try to fight the rip-current, an experienced swimmer could drown.

You can spot a rip-current in the ocean. If you see the movement of the ocean, and believe it may be a rip-current, avoid the area.

The key to getting out of an undertow is to scream, and hope someone hears you. But if they don't,  what you do not want to do is  panic.

I was taught that when in an undertow, swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current. If you can't swim, or you get tired, try floating on your back or treading water.

I had always been warned about the undertows. My parents gave me the advice about swimming parallel to the shore.  That piece of advice possibly saved my life.  If you try to swim back into shore the undertow will continue to push you out to sea. I was a good swimmer, but I wasn't sure I would survive the current trying to pull me out to sea.  Eventually, I was rescued by a lifeguard.

Every child, for their health and for their survival, should learn how to swim. They say 20 percent of adults across the country can't swim. That may also be why we have an average of 10 people drown in this country every day.

It is more than evident  at Cedar Creek Lake how powerful the water can be. The summer has barely started, and there have already been two drownings.

An article on the CNN website said it best: “The first thing to remember is that drowning doesn't just happen," says Alison Osinski, water-safety expert.  "Something always precipitates drowning."

Only about 35 percent of Americans know how to swim, and only 2 percent to 7 percent  swim well, Osinski says. Teens are particularly susceptible to peer pressure, and often go past their limits. Exhaustion or disorientation under water could cause a weak swimmer to panic.

Statistics show most drownings of people over 15 years-old happen outside of pools. In 70 percent of the cases, alcohol is involved.

A lesson to learn is when giving your child or yourself swimming lessons, remember the safety issue. The water is fun, inviting and relaxing. Just don't go crazy.

In Henderson County, we depend on people visiting our lakes and parks for economic reasons. What we don't want is to report another drowning.

Someone said to me recently if one more person learned to swim, that could possibly mean one less drowning.

Be safe, and have a great summer. 

Kathi Nailling is a Staff Writer for the Athens Daily Review.

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