A recent article reported that drowning was the number one cause of death for males ages 5-14 in the US. Now that the weather is warmer and we’re spending more time outdoors, we wanted to re-address the myths about teens swimming. The tragic death of a Bonney Lake teen last week at Lake Tapps also shows the importance of making sure our teens know about swimming safety and drowning prevention. So this 4th of July weekend, not only do we need to remember to be safe around fireworks, don’t forget about the importance of water safety!

In this post, we’ll focus on more myths and truths on swimming…

Myth: I can get help if I need it or I’ll hear my friend call for help

Reality: Many people mistake a teen who is drowning as just fooling around/faking it since the drowning person  literally can’t yell For help. The drowning person then sinks  by the time the rescuer arrives. Also, it can be very difficult to save someone who is drowning without knowing the proper rescue techniques. If you are not a trained lifeguard and emergency rescuer, using a buoy, paddle, or other tool from the water’s edge can be safer than trying to go into water and save someone.

Myth: I can join the others who are swimming across the lake/to the dock and just turn around if I get tired (and never make it back)

Reality: Swimming in open water can be very tiring. Current and cold temperature take more energy to swim in than a pool. It can also be very difficult to recognize distances when looking at a body of water. A teen may think a swim across the lake will be short, but they may reach the mid point and not have enough energy to make it back.

Myth: If my friends in trouble I can just call 911.

Reality:  A drowning person has only 2 minutes before they go under and 5 minutes to be rescued. It take EMS 5 min in the city and 10-15 or more in rural areas outside the city to locations.  If you are not swimming in designated areas, it can also be very difficult to explain to the 911 operator exactly where you are located. It’s safest to swim where there are lifeguards on duty.

Myth: Parent’s may think that if my child knows how to swim, they’ll be safe going out with friends to a lake or river. However, teens may not be safe due to all the myths listed above. Remind your teen to swim where there are lifeguards. Use personal floatation (life vests) when on boats or other equipment, and never drink alcohol while swimming.

For more information, see our previous post on drowning myths and check out the Seattle Children’s website on drowning prevention.