Constantly keep watch over kids around water

WE ARE sad to read about the recent drowning of a seven-year-old boy ("Boy, 7, drowns in RWS pool during family trip"; last Wednesday).

Although it was reported that there were lifeguards around, their presence only reduces the risks of drowning and does not eliminate them.

It is still important to constantly watch over children whenever they are in or around water. There are a number of reasons for this:

  • Children can be prevented from entering the water or entering deeper water before they can do so and put themselves in danger.
  • A drowning person can struggle to keep his head above water for only a very short period of time before he is overwhelmed. A study of actual film footage of drowning cases captured by camera from the United States found that this period ranges from 20 to 60 seconds.
  • Drowning is a silent killer. The reason a drowning victim is unable to shout for help is that the main purpose of the respiratory system is breathing and speech is a secondary function. This is consistent with observations that drowning victims do not have enough time to exhale and inhale and still call for help in the limited time they struggle to keep above water.
  • The same study also showed that apart from being unable to call or wave for help, drowning victims often look as though they are playing when they are actually drowning.

Without a constant watch over children who are in or around water, the risks of them drowning will increase.

Other measures to help prevent or reduce the risks of drowning include teaching children to swim and survive in water and having parents and guardians learn life-saving skills.

Richard Tan Ming Kirk

Singapore Life Saving Society

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2015, with the headline 'Constantly keep watch over kids around water'. Subscribe