EMA Care Blog

Our Blog covers recent, relevant and helpful health and healthcare news

Water Safety in the Summer

baby-next-to-pool
Early in the summer, and there have already been numerous drownings and near-drownings of (mostly) children and babies in Israel.

Children drown in pools, at beaches, and even in buckets of water. Adults usually drown because of poor judgment – jumping into rapids or going deep into the sea without swimming skills. “Near drownings” oftentimes cause irreversible brain damage due to prolonged lack of oxygen. Contrary to popular belief and Hollywood imaginations, drowning is almost always a silent process. If someone can call for help and wave their arms, they may be in trouble, but they are not drowning.

Dangers of flotation devices

I recall an incident several years ago in a kibbutz pool when, swimming with my children in shallow waters less than a meter deep, a toddler in a flotation device floated near us. The mother was in the pool talking to a friend about a meter away when the baby leaned forward to touch the water, and the entire flotation device flipped over. The child’s head was completely submerged in the water, with his feet waving in the air, caught in the flotation device. It was silent. It could have been deadly.

I flipped the child back and, holding onto the child, approached the mother, who was distracted and oblivious as to what happened and almost happened. I explained to her what happened, and she waved me off, thanked me, continued her conversation, and allowed her child to float alone. Neglectful? Probably. Typical? Definitely.

People are often ignorant about basic water safety, trusting cheap flotation devices to babysit their children, getting distracted, and inadvertently neglecting their children’s safety. Here is a fact: Flotation devices are not safe. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission sums it up well: “Swimming and flotation aids are not safety devices, and they are not designed to prevent drowning. Children must be supervised at all times when around water. Children may drown when flotation aids are misused.”

Flotation devices will keep a child afloat, but as illustrated above, they will not prevent drowning and should never be used instead of direct supervision. I never gave my children flotation aids. I held them and taught them how to swim from a young age.

If you use a flotation device on a baby or young child, you must still hold them continuously, assuring that the device is being used correctly for the child’s height, weight, age and that the device is intact. As early as possible, teach your child to swim and shed these devices.

Water wings (the floaties that go around the arms) can easily slip off and may hinder a child’s ability to swim properly. Most young children's devices should be considered toys and not relied upon as a flotation device or as babysitters. This fact is clearly marked in dozens of languages on nearly every flotation device I have seen marketed for children.

 

Rip currents, undertows, and beach safety

Among the many safety issues, one must consider teaching water safety even to young children. Children should never be playing near the sea boundary (where the waves hit the sand) without direct supervision. Tides change, and dry sand can be underwater quickly. Like most major water bodies, the Mediterranean is plagued with rough waters, rip tides or currents, and strong undertows.

Rip currents are strong currents that cause a narrow, powerful water current that cuts through the wave lines and can pull swimmers out to several hundred meters. Rip currents, which account for 80% of beach rescues and 100 deaths every year in the US alone, are like fast-running rivers, but they will not pull swimmers under the water. Signs of a rip current may include a noticeable break in the wave pattern, a different appearance of the area such as a long streak of foam or different-colored water, and increased sea debris going toward shore in the narrow current.

Most people who drown or near-drown during a rip current do so by panicking and fighting the current, exhausting themselves, and drowning. The US National Ocean Service recommends for people to float with the current and not to fight it. This is the safest bet, and you can call for help and signal the lifeguards simultaneously. Once the current ends, up to a few hundred meters from the shore, you can swim perpendicular to shore until past the rip current and then swim toward shore with the normal tide. It is not easy, but teaching these instructions to your family members can save their lives.

An undertow is extremely dangerous to young children playing in shallow water, as it can actually pull them underwater. Although strong undertows can pull adults under, they usually only do so for a short distance, and the adult can then regain footing. A small child does not have this ability, so meticulous monitoring of children, even in the shallows, is essential to prevent a tragedy.

Every official bathing beach in Israel has a lifeguard station with specific hours that vary per season. Most lifeguard stations are staffed from mid-April through the beginning of October. The lifeguards designate the areas where bathers are allowed to swim by using flags in the water. Throughout the day, lifeguards adjust the flag locations based on water conditions.

On top of every lifeguard stand is a flag that designates water safety. This is part of an international flag system. There may be other flags in the water or at restaurants on the beach, but the flag atop the lifeguard stand is the one that counts.

A white flag indicates that the water is calm and gentle. During this time, children still need to be watched closely by adults. A red flag indicates danger – either strong winds, powerful undertow, or big waves. Swimming is permitted in a restricted area but is dangerous for those who are not good swimmers. Small children should not be in the water unless with an adult, preferably one who is holding their hands.

Black flags indicate that swimming is forbidden. Lifeguards will still be there because that is their job, and beachgoers may be unaware of the reason for a black flag. Reasons may include rip currents, stormy seas, water or sand contamination, and other extremely hazardous conditions.

Purple flags indicate that there are jellyfish or Medusot in the sea. There are many kinds of jellyfish, and none are friendly, from burning skin sensation to actual stings that can lead to lethal consequences, stay out of the water when jellyfish abound. 

Home Safety

Every year in Israel, several babies and toddlers drown or near-drown at home, usually in buckets of water or baths. Babies can drown in 2 cm. of water, so our visual safety assessment must take that into account.

Never leave a bucket of water near a baby or toddler, even if the bucket is mostly empty. Children are “top-heavy,” so much of their weight is in their heads. If they lean into a bucket, they can fall in head-first without the balance or strength to stand back up or right themselves. If washing the floor, the bucket should remain with the person cleaning, or a childproof gate should be used to prevent the child from getting near the bucket. Alternatively, the floor should be cleaned when the child is in a crib.

Baths are considered fun playtime and excellent bonding time between parents and children. However, precautions must be taken to assure a young child’s safety. Bathwater should be warm but not hot, as determined by the sensitive skin on the inner forearm. Never overfill a bathtub.

Babies require a few centimeters of water. Until they can sit up independently, babies must be held throughout the bath. Once they sit up, parents need to have hands near the baby to quickly help if they slip, turn over, or injures themself. Toddlers being bathed should be observed and at arm’s length at all times, and never under the care of another child or sibling.

Parents should not be on their phones or distracted during bath time, swim time, or beach time, as accidents can be silent and deadly.

 ** As seen in the Jerusalem Post. Dr. Eliana Aaron, the writer, is a family nurse practitioner with a doctorate from Yale University in nursing practice and over 20 years’ experience as a health professional. She is the EMA Care director, which provides 24/7 English-language telemedicine, health advocacy, and case-management services.

Israel : Vaccination Update
Mental health during your gap year in Israel

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to https://emacare.com/

Our Latest Blogs

13 June 2021
Head lice are tiny bugs that feed on blood from the human scalp. An infestation of head lice is widespread among children who get lice from direct contact with someone who already has head lice. Most first-world countries have a rule about children w...
06 June 2021
Over the past few months, Israel has been going through a hard time. First, we had a year of the COVID-19 pandemic where movement restrictions were imposed to help control the disease spreading. Then we had the Meron tragedy in which 45 people were t...
01 June 2021
This year it is estimated that over a million Jews worldwide have been looking into making Aliyah. This is probably due to the global Coronavirus pandemic and the increasing radical events that have been happening across the globe. Many people are ch...

EMA Care in the News

27 April 2021
In April 2021, after a long year with a strict non-entry policy, the Israeli government decided to allow visitors to enter Israel under certain circumstances. The Israeli government was reluctant about opening its borders. Therefore, they haven't mad...
18 June 2020
The following article was published in the English addition of Hamodia. Written by Joel Rebibo...
14 June 2020
What will be the 'new normal' for Israel's gap year programs? According to EMA Care, an estimated 80% of programs will close down permanently if they are not able to reopen in the fall. By TZVI JOFFRE    JUNE 4, 2020 11:58  &...

What Our Clients Say

Interview with Dr. Mobeen & Dr. Eliana Aaron

Many thanks for your hour-long session on Dr. Syed's YouTube channel. This is the best Hasbara Israel could wish for!

Read More...

EMA Care information and Q&A conference

Thank you for the zoom (and all your updates). It was great. I wish the news was like that. Straight forward, factual, unemotional.  Bravo to both of you ladies!! 

Read More...

EMA Care information and Q&A conference

Thanks so much for your time and attention! It was excellent! Thank you guys so much for organizing.

Read More...

EMA Care information and Q&A conference

Thank you! Very helpful and comprehensive.

Read More...

Ema Care WhatsApp groups

I have been following your updates closely and I really appreciate your posts and I know that I am reading accurate information 

Read More...

Recommended by an Infectious Disease Specialist

My experience with Ema Care has been so positive that I wanted to share it in case it could help someone else. Eight days ago my daughter, a Shanah Bet student, called to say she wasn’t feeling well and had symptoms of Covid-19. I was put in touch with an Infectious Disease specialist who recommended Ema Care. I reached Dr. Eliana Aaron easily and signed my daughter up. The next morning, Ema Care gave my daughter a telehealth exam and provided her with prescriptions, as well as a list of

...
Read More...

Pandemic Planning

I would like to also add my compliments, you exceeded my already very high expectations. You can certainly send other schools our way for a recommendation. 

-Mr. E. Naiman

Read More...

Emacares Youtube Channel

"I recently discovered your channel and all i can say is that this is just brilliant"

Read More...

A Wonderful and Patient Resource

Dear Dr. Eliana words simply cannot express how much you have done for all of us and so many others in keeping us informed, calming anxieties, and being such a wonderful and patient resource through such a difficult time. Wishing you much bracha and hatzlacha in the merit of all the countless mitzvot u have done to help so many through these trying times; mikol halev, ein milim and thanks so so much .

Gap Year Program Staff

Read More...

A True Tzadikah

Hello Dr. Aaron. I cannot thank you enough for providing not only crucial information but a framework that gave us stability and allowed us to function (instead of descending into chaos, which undoubtedly would have happened, if not for you). At the risk of waxing dramatic, I will tell you that when I think of what you've done these past couple of months, what comes to mind is Rav Yohanan Ben Zakai asking Vespasian to give him Yavneh ve-Hakhameha, thus saving the entire enterprise of Talmud

...
Read More...