Pools and Hot Tubs
About 400 adults 65 and older drown in the US each year, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. In greater Phoenix, more seniors than children under 5 are drowning in hot tubs and pools. Many of the senior deaths are health-related and occur when seniors either are swimming alone or accidentally fall into the water, and don't have the strength or endurance to swim to safety.
"If you think about it, a swimming pool can be pretty unforgiving if you have a seizure or a medical crisis and you slip under," Phoenix Fire Chief Bob Khan says. "You may survive a seizure or a heart attack, but you won't survive drowning in a pool if you go under and you're incapacitated." In Scottsdale, the Rural/Metro Fire Department has introduced its first-ever water safety campaign focused on the elderly.
The 2003 North American Safe Boating Campaign points out that nearly 70 percent of those killed in recreational boating accidents die by drowning, and 90 percent of those who drown were not wearing a life jacket. Therefore, the simple measure of putting on a life jacket every time you get into a boat could save your life.
Although many people believe that having a life jacket in the boat is enough protection in case of an emergency, that’s not the case. The main cause of small-boat fatalities is capsizing or falling overboard, and if that occurs the life jacket may not be near at hand. It’s also extremely difficult to put one on once you’re in the water.
Water-safety tips for older adults:
- Never swim alone.
- Do not swim at all if you have been drinking or if you have taken medication that alters your medical status.
- Check the water temperature before swimming. Cold water can tax the body and make it difficult to swim well.
- Have a pool fence.
- Learn CPR.
- Exercise to build up your muscles and endurance.
- Consult your doctor to find out how much exercise you should do and if water exercise is appropriate.
Sources: Phoenix and Sun City Fire Departments and Dr. Walt Nieri.
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