State Health Commissioner Advises Precautions for Summer Swimming Season

ALBANY, NY, June 8, 2006 - State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr.P.H., today, reminded New Yorkers to swim safely this summer to avoid needless drownings and injuries.

During 2002-2004, 129 New Yorkers were hospitalized each year and 109 died as a result of drownings or near drownings. Children under age four years accounted for the largest number of drowning related hospitalizations and adults over age 25 years accounted for the greatest number of drowning deaths.

"Drownings are a leading cause of injury and death among children under age five," said Dr. Novello. "Accidents can happen quickly, without warning or without a cry for help. Never swim alone, always swim with a friend and keep an eye on each other. Parents should make sure they are watching their children, even when other adults or lifeguards are present."

You could save a life by recognizing a drowning person when you see one. Many people mistakenly, think that if a swimmer is not calling for help, that they are not in trouble. Remember that when someone is drowning, he or she is trying to breathe, not speak. During a drowning, it may appear that the person is splashing or waving. Typically, the person thrashes in the water with arms extended, attempting to keep his or her head above water. This happens very quickly in as few as 20 seconds or as long as a minute. Any delay can be fatal.

Swimming Safety Tips:

  • Make pools inaccessible to children, unless an adult is directly supervising them.
  • Don't drink alcohol if you plan on going swimming or boating. Alcohol slows reaction time and affects balance and judgment.
  • Use extra caution if you have a medical condition, such as a seizure disorder, diabetes or a heart problem that can cause disability or loss of consciousness while in the water. A change in medication or skipping medication can have disastrous results.
  • Be aware that in natural bodies of water, swift current, deep water and sudden drop-offs can get you in trouble, even if you are a good swimmer.
  • Install proper fencing in accordance with the State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code. Use self-closing, self-latching gates as part of the fencing. Make sure all the equipment (fencing, hardware) is maintained and in good condition.
  • Be aware that solar covers may delay the discovery of a submerged child. When checking a pool for a missing child, make sure the cover is completely removed.
  • Make pool safety a priority. Many drowning incidents occur when people are not aware of the responsibilities of owning a swimming pool.

The State and County Health Departments regulate public swimming pools and bathing beaches in New York State. For more information about swimming and steps to prevent water related injuries, please visit the Department's web site: