Swimming is a great way to enjoy the summer and cool off. Unfortunately, especially with small children, it’s an activity that can pose some danger. 

“When enjoying this fun activity, we want you and your family to stay safe, which is why we recommend swimming with a buddy, never leaving children unattended near water, and for inexperienced and young swimmers, we recommend life jackets,” says Paige Gernes, physician assistant, Mayo Clinic Health System in St. James.

Drowning remains a leading cause of unintentional death for people of all ages – especially for children under 14, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On average, there are 3,500 fatalities annually from drowning – or about 10 people a day who die from drowning.

There are two types of drowning events. The first is when people are submerged and experience reflexes of panic, agitation and air hunger. When the person can’t avoid taking a breath under water, fluid will rush into the lungs. 

The other type of drowning occurs when the voice box closes off, known as a laryngospasm, which is a reflex that happens to prevent fluid from getting into the lungs. This can happen if a person is below water and holding his or her breath to the point of passing out.

“It’s not uncommon for children playing in water to accidentally take a little bit of water into their stomach or lungs, which will cause the body’s natural defense: coughing,” says Gernes. “Most times, the coughing will clear the water from the body, and the child won’t be in any danger.”

But if the coughing episode lingers or the person seems to be in distress, call for medical assistance. 

“The best thing we can do is to be vigilant when around water and to watch our kids at all times,” says Gernes. 

Visit mayoclinichealthsystem.org for more information.