3 common sense cautions while playing in water

Twenty-nine people drowned in King County in 2021, including 15 in open water, according to the King County Department of Health.

Dr. Chinenyenwa Mpamaugo, a pediatric resident at the University of Washington School of Medicine, says every family should be mindful of three priorities before spending time at a beach, lake, river or pool:

1. Wear a life jacket.

“Regardless of your capability of swimming and how good you think you are as a swimmer, I want to reinforce the importance of having a life jacket,” said Mpamaugo. “For any kid under age 5, all of them should be wearing a life jacket at any body of water.”  Mpamaugo says any boat passenger or participant in open-water activities like paddleboarding or kayaking should wear a life jacket — and adults can set positive examples for children in this way. Young children need a life jacket even when playing near water or on a dock.

The Washington State Drowning Prevention Network has printable coupons available for 20% off life jacket purchases

2. Avoid alcohol and other brain-affecting substances.

Dulling your senses on or near the water “will just make it harder for you to be aware of your surroundings and to stay safe,” Mpamaugo said.

3. Swim with a buddy and with a focused supervisor nearby.

“If you are that person and you have been tasked with supervising children or even adults, it's really important that you be the person to put your phone down to be able to put 100% into the role,” said Mpamaugo. “It's key that you are watching all of the people who are involved because of how quickly things can happen.”

Download broadcast-ready soundbites on water safety and a social media tutorial on life jackets. Mpamaugo also demonstrates how to select a well-fitting life jacket.

Learn more about drowning prevention through the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center.

UW Medicine