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updated: 7/6/2012 7:49 PM

Health dept. urges precautions following lake drownings

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Lake County Health Department

While we are just entering the second month of summer, Lake County has already seen four drowning deaths in lakes (Lake Michigan, West Loon Lake, Gages Lake and Deep Lake). For the entire year in 2011 there were six drowning deaths recorded in the county.

Drowning is the fifth leading cause of unintentional injury death in the United States with men, minorities, and children, age 4 and younger, most at risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Lake County Health Department/Community Health Center offers the following safety precautions to help residents avoid lake and pool-related injuries this summer.

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Learn to swim: Formal swimming lessons reduce drowning, particularly among young children.

Use the buddy system: Swim with someone and select areas where lifeguards are present.

Designate a supervisor for children: Whether it is the bathtub, the pool or a lake, a responsible adult who is not distracted by other activities should be watching and within arm's reach of pre-school age children.

Avoid alcohol: Do not drink alcohol during swimming, boating or water skiing, nor while supervising children in the water.

Avoid hyperventilation: Don't let swimmers hyperventilate before swimming under water or try to hold their breath for long periods of time. This can cause individuals to black out and drown.

Wear a life jacket- no substitutes: Boating deaths can be greatly reduced if people wear life jackets. Do not use air-filled or foam toys to replace life jackets. They are built to be toys, not to keep swimmers safe.

Fence pools: If you have a pool at home, build a locked fence at least 4 feet tall on all sides to keep out unsupervised children.

Remove toys: Remove toys from the pool and deck when not in use so unsupervised children are not attracted to the pool.

Take other precautions: Use U.S. Coast Guard- approved life jackets, know the meaning of and obey warnings if posted, and watch for rip currents and dangerous waves. If caught in a rip current, swim parallel to shore, and once free of the current, swim diagonally toward the shore.

Do not swim at night: You cannot see foreign objects in the water, nor can you be seen easily by others.

Keep a phone close at hand: Make sure a phone is easily accessible in case you need to dial 911.

Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation: Your CPR skills could save a life while waiting for paramedics to arrive.

For more information about swim bans at Lake Michigan beaches monitored by the Health Department's Lakes Management program, visit: http://www.lakecountyil.gov/Health/want/Pages/BeachAdvisory.aspx. Learn more in general about the lakes in Lake County at: http://www.lakecountyil.gov/Health/want/Pages/BeachLakeInfo.aspx.

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