Swimming safety tips for Memorial Day weekend

Memorial Day is the weekend many pools open for the season. With that fun, though, comes some really sobering statistics about the risk of drowning.

The week leading up to the holiday weekend is designated as Healthy and Safe Swimming Week. Drowning is the second leading cause of injury-related death in children under age 14 with about 1,000 deaths occurring each year from unintentional drowning in the United States.

Cleveland Clinic's Dr. Neha Vyas says one of the first steps to prevent accidental drowning is to teach children how to swim.

"It's always good to make sure that children know how to swim, and children as early as a few months old can get used to being in the water," Dr. Vyas says. "They have special swim schools nowadays so that children can learn to blow bubbles, and float, just get used to the water."

Dr. Vyas also says that swimming lessons can never take the place of adult supervision.

She says especially in situations where there is alcohol involved, like a backyard picnic, it's important to make sure that an adult who is not drinking is designated to watch kids who are swimming.

A recent national poll shows that parents often underestimate the risk of drowning in pools where no lifeguard is present. Thirty seven percent of parents polled said they would allow their child to swim unsupervised in a home, hotel or neighborhood pool.

Dr. Vyas says that even if your child knows how to swim, it does not mean that they are not at risk of drowning. A drowning can happen any time and without warning, contrary to what many people think, it often doesn’t involve splashing and calling for help. A drowning often happens silently and quickly.

"They occur very rapidly and they occur without warning, so it's very important to have your eyes on the pool, or the body of water and not necessarily just your ears," Dr. Vyas says.

Health officials from the CDC say it's also important for all swimmers to be aware of recreational water illnesses, or RWI, which are caused by germs from contaminated bodies of water. RWI can result in symptoms such as gastrointestinal illness, rashes, ear and respiratory infections.