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Why are men more likely to drown than women?

A common summer pastime may be more dangerous for men than women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that 80 percent of people who die from drowning are male. This is thought to be because men are more likely to participate in swimming and water sports under the influence of drugs and alcohol. In addition, they are more likely forgo wearing a life jacket. This summer, don’t let swimming safety slide.

Drowning statistics

  • Every day, about 10 people die from unintentional drowning.
  • Nearly 80 percent of the people who die from drowning are male.
  • For children, the highest drowning risk is between the ages of 1 and 4 years old.
  • Babies under age 1 have the second-highest risk.
  • For males, the drowning rate increases substantially again between ages 15 to 24, where males are almost six times as likely to drown than females.
  • 16,000 people are rushed to hospitals for near-drownings and half of those are hospitalized for further care.

“Unfortunately, we see tragic cases of accidental drowning every year, so it is really important to take extra precautions around water,” says Altee Johnson, M.D., a primary care physician at Piedmont Physicians Group. “Everyone should learn to swim, but remember that even a good swimmer is not always safe in the water.” 

Risk factors

The CDC says these are the biggest drowning risk factors:

  • Lack of swimming ability
  • Lack of barriers to prevent unsupervised water access
  • Lack of close supervision while swimming
  • Failure to wear a life jacket
  • Alcohol use. Alcohol alters balance, coordination and judgment, and its effects may be heightened by sun exposure and heat

Drowning can happen quickly and quietly anywhere there is water — swimming pools, ocean, lakes, rivers, hot tubs, and even bathtubs. It can also happen in the presence of lifeguards. That is why it is so important for children and adults to be water smart.

“Even for seasoned swimmers, there are things that we can’t control, such as riptides at the beach, bad weather, falls, concussions and other unplanned accidents, so you can never be too alert in and around water,” Dr. Johnson says. 

Water safety tips

Protect yourself with these tips and encourage your friends and family to do the same:

  • Learn to swim. Formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by 88 percent among children ages 1 to 4 years.
  • Never swim alone. If there is no lifeguard on site, always swim with a friend or family member.
  • Use U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets. According to the CDC, half of all boating deaths might be prevented with the use of life jackets.
  • Have nearby access to a phone in case of an emergency.
  • Avoid alcohol, especially before or during swimming or boating.
  • Learn CPR. Your CPR skills could save someone’s life.
  • Do not swim during a thunderstorm.
  • Always use sunscreen and reapply to prevent burns.

Dr. Johnson stresses the importance of learning CPR. She has seen it save people’s lives time and time again.

“Everyone should learn basic CPR. It is extremely effective if administered right away. Seconds truly can make the difference between life and death and disability such as brain damage. You never know when you might need it,” she says.

Piedmont Atlanta Fitness Center offers a variety of swim classes, including private swimming lessons. To learn more, check out the class schedule here. For additional healthy lifestyle tips, visit Piedmont’s Living Better.

Schedule your annual physical with a Piedmont primary care physician. Save time, book online.

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