A child practicing water safety rules.

As the exciting summertime countdown begins, bringing acute awareness to water safety is a must, and according the YMCA, it's the difference between life and death.

Drowning is the leading cause of death for children one- to four-years-old and the second leading cause of death for children ages 5 to 14; and two thirds of all fatal drownings occur from May through August for most age groups, according to the Stuart C. Gildred Family YMCA. To help reduce the risk of childhood drowning and instill a lifelong love for swimming, the YMCA offers swim lessons to the community as well as water safety programs to underserved populations. 

“Drowning poses a threat to the health and well-being of people nationwide, particularly among children," said Margo Byrne, Chief Operations Officer of Channel Islands YMCA. "Research shows that participation in aquatics safety programs and swim lessons significantly reduces the risk of drowning," she said. 

Here are six ways to stay safe:

1. Never swim alone. Parents should instruct their children to only swim when a lifeguard is on duty. The YMCA also instructs parents to teach their children to ask for permission from their supervising adult. This way the adult knows when a child will be in a body of water.

2. Children must be supervised when in the water. Whether it’s bath time or taking a dip in a pool or lake, parents should make sure their children are within arm’s reach at all times.

3. Don’t engage in breath-holding activities. Children shouldn’t hold their breath for a prolonged amount of time while swimming, as this can cause drowning and has several other severe physical side-effects.

4. Wear a life jacket. Inexperienced or non-swimmers should only wear Coast Guard-approved life jackets or swimming devices.

5. Don’t jump in the water to save a friend who is struggling in deep water. If a child finds their friend in deep water unexpectedly, their natural reaction may be to jump in the water to try to save them. Even if a child is a great swimmer, a panicked person will overpower them, pulling them underwater with them. The Y’s Safety Around Water program teaches the “reach, throw, don’t go” concept of using a long object to reach for them and pull them to safety. Children should also alert an authority or a nearby adult in this situation. By using this technique children can help their friend without compromising their own safety.

6. Enroll children in water safety or swim lessons. Just like teaching a child to look both ways before they cross the street, formal water safety lessons teach them an important life skill. The Y’s Swim Lessons instill children with fundamental water safety skills and tools that will help them have fun in the pool safely and know what to do if they find themselves in water unexpectedly.

“Teaching children how to swim and be safe around water not only saves lives, it builds confidence and is an important life skill," said Byrne.

Thanks to donations to the YMCAs, scholarships are available to anyone who can’t otherwise afford swim lessons. To find out how to enroll in the YMCA’s Swim Lesson program, visit www.ciymca.org/stuartgildred or contact Gregory Hughes at gregory.hughes@ciymca.org or 805.686.2037.

About the Channel Islands YMCA

Established in 1887, the Channel Islands YMCA is a charitable organization of seven YMCA branches serving Santa Barbara and Ventura counties including: Camarillo Family YMCA, Lompoc Family YMCA, Montecito Family YMCA, Santa Barbara Family YMCA, Stuart C. Gildred Family YMCA in Santa Ynez, Ventura Family YMCA, and Youth and Family Services YMCA which operates Noah’s Anchorage Youth Crisis Shelter, the St. George Youth Center, My Home, and Support and Outreach Services. For more information about the Stuart C. Gildred Family YMCA, visit http://www.ciymca.org/stuartgildred or call (805) 686-2037.



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