Your Health: Water safety needed during summer |

Your Health: Water safety needed during summer

Graciela Gonzales holds on to the raft of her 6-year-old son, Hugo Payan, as a surge of water hits them at the wave pool at the Craig Pool Complex. Among the many basic safety precautions for swimming is for parents or other adults to keep an eye on young children at all times.
Andy Bockelman

At this point in the summer, there’s a good chance you or your family have taken in a dip in a body of water, either natural or manmade, but having some fun in the H2O quickly can lead to some negative repercussions if you’re not prepared.

Safety in the water is a priority for all ages, though there are different considerations for children and adults as well as different kinds of circumstances.

If you’re planning to take a boat out on a lake or reservoir, the most crucial things to remember are personal floatation devices for everyone on your craft, no matter how strong a swimmer they may be. Keeping properly sized life jackets or similar devices for younger boaters will ensure they are in good care.

According to statistics compiled throughout a five-year period from the United States Coast Guard, Colorado had the fewest recreational boating accidents in 2013, with 32 compared to 60 in 2009. The number may seem minor against the hundreds of mishaps that have occurred in coastal states, but serious accidents can happen even in landlocked locations, with two fatal boating accidents in the state in the past year.

River safety is just as important, with the added danger of a regular flow once you get in the water serving as an indicator that this is not a place for novices.

The process of learning to swim is best begun in water without a current, preferably at a pool with trained professionals.

Sylvia Griffiths, aquatics manager for Craig Parks and Recreation and the Craig Pool Complex, said lessons are offered for children as young as 6 months old. However, unless parents are planning to help their kids retain the skills on a daily basis, she added that the best age to let the wisdom sink in and be most effective for those who likely only will be seasonal swimmers is at the age of 5 or 6.

Parents are the greatest presence for those learning the ability, which means the responsibility of giving children the right equipment falls on them. While life jackets are a necessity in the open water, they are not recommended or even allowed at the complex.

Similarly, Griffiths also discourages the use of floating armbands, or water wings, for multiple reasons.

“They can give kids a false sense of security, and it doesn’t really help them while they’re learning,” Griffiths said.

In some cases, water wings can be the cause of danger in the water. Griffiths said she and her staff of lifeguards saw an online video during training that horrified them — an infant requiring resuscitation because her mouth was right at the water level while floating, causing her to suck in small bits of liquid until it overpowered her lungs.

“It’s called dry-drowning,” Griffiths said.

Misuse of pool toys also can be a problem. A child getting stuck under a raft, noodle or other items quickly can turn into a hazardous situation if they aren’t noticed by an adult, with a good chance of the water obstructing their view.

For that matter, the Craig Pool Complex does not allow swimmers to bring their own rafts or tubes because of the possibility of carrying bacteria, parasites or other health concerns from other bodies of water.

A new rule this year at the pool is children younger than 7 are not allowed admission without an adult.

Ary Shaffer, who will be a junior at Moffat County High School this fall, had to go through hours of classes before becoming a qualified lifeguard for the summer. In her first year on the job, she fortunately has yet to experience any major catastrophes, though she’s quick to keep an eye on kids, particularly in the wave pool.

“You’ve really got to watch them,” she said.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or