Shannon Snodgrass PT, Rehab One

The two most frequent summertime water-related dangers are drowning and spinal injuries. Drowning is the fourth-most common cause of death from accidental injury in the United States.

Children under 5 years of age and young adults from 15 to 24 have the highest risk of drowning. Also, men are more likely to drown than women. Drowning may occur while fishing, boating, swimming, hunting, sailing or even taking a bath.

There is also a high risk of spinal injury. Approximately 1,000 neck and back injuries occur each year as a result of water activities. If the injury damages the spinal cord, severe disability or even paralysis can result. Most of these injuries occur while diving or jumping head first into the surf at the beach or off a cliff into water with unknown depths.

The American Red Cross offers guidelines for activities in or around water.

n Be sure that you, and the people with you, know how to swim.

n Know what to do in an emergency, and learn the basics of first aid and CPR.

n Select a safe environment.

n When boating, use Coast Guard approved life jackets.

n Be aware of potential water hazards.

n Be aware of forecasted weather conditions.

n Know how to prevent, recognize and treat hypothermia and heat emergencies.

The American Red Cross also has guidelines for swimming.

n Always swim with a buddy.

n Swim only in areas supervised by certified lifeguards.

n Never swim after drinking alcohol or taking drugs.

n If you are unsure of water depth, enter feet first.

n To avoid choking, do not eat or chew gum while swimming.

n Stay within your swimming ability limits.

n Do not go swimming if you are overheated.

n Avoid swimming if you are too cold, too tired, or too far from shore, boat or dock.

n Be sure to know the correct way to dive, as well as when it is safe to dive.

n Look out for weaker swimmers.

n If you cannot see the bottom of a pool, do not swim in it.

n When swimming after eating, use common sense. It is not necessarily important to wait an hour after eating before swimming. However, if you have eaten a large meal, let digestion begin before jumping in.

For Further information, call 304-369-5719.

Shannon Snodgrass is a physical therapist at the Boone Memorial Hospital Physical Therapy Sports Medicine Center.