In Ireland, 140 people drown each year, but there are many preventative measures you can put in place and teach your child, so they will be less at risk when near water.
Regardless of whether you live in a coastal town, in the midlands, you should teach your child these essential water safety tips to give them a fighting chance and help reduce the chance of drowning in a pool, lake, river or even at sea.
Look for the red and yellow flag
First and foremost, only play or swim at a designated lifeguarded beach or waterway, between the flags if possible and follow all orders from lifeguards, even if they might sound silly. Lifeguards are professionals who are there to keep you safe, in and out of the water.
Learning to swim is an essential water survival skill, and it is the only sport which can save your child’s life. Consider enrolling your child in swimming lessons from a young age and give them access to this life-saving skill and a healthy respect for water.
If you find yourself coming into difficulty in the water, lean backwards and extend your arms and legs out and gently move your arms and legs to help you stay afloat. Once you have caught your breath, call for help or try to swim to safety.
Understand the sea
Rip currents are deadly currents running out to sea and can wipe you from your feet in seconds even in shallow water. If you find yourself caught in a rip, don’t try to swim against it. Instead, swim parallel to shore or if you can stand, wade yourself to the side until you are free from the rip.
The RNLI strongly urges families not to use floatation devices. These inflatables are designed for pools, not the sea. Even in the calmest of weather, these blow-up toys can be swept out easily. If you do use one and get into difficulty, stay on your inflatable as it will keep you above the water.
Choose games wisely
Children are curious creatures and play the most peculiar games, and seeing how long they can hold their breath underwater is one of them. Talk to them about the dangers of drowning and other risks involved, including being at higher risk of passing out.
Reach, throw, don’t go
It’s an instinct to help someone who may be in distress in deep water, but by getting in to save them, you are putting yourself at risk. Teach your child to use a long object to reach for them or a ring buoy to help pull them to safety.
Suck, duck and tuck
Your child might be a strong swimmer, but if someone beside them is struggling, they can grab and hold them down to underwater to keep themselves afloat. Teach them to suck air in, duck underwater and tuck their arms and legs to push away. Then they can call for help.