New York health officials say the state records hundreds of drowning related deaths or injuries each year. Sadly, many of those deaths involve children and teens.

Central NY has endured its fair share of drowning-related tragedies, such as losing the 19-year-old boy who drowned at the Salmon River Reservoir.

However, it appears the number of drowning deaths is only rising all across the state -- not just in Central NY.

The New York Department of Health issued a safety warning to hopefully prevent our youngest and most vulnerable residents from becoming another statistic.

Drownings have reached their highest level in NY

According to the most recent federal data, 242 people drowned in New York in 2020. That is the highest number of drowning deaths ever reported, according to Times Union.

It is unknown what is contributing to this unprecedented surge in fatalities after years of declining numbers. Some point to a rise in overturned kayaks or canoes while others have noted of tragedies involving people trying to save someone in distress.

Tour Boat Capsizes On Lake, Killing 20
Colin Archer/Getty Images

But when it comes to fatalities involving children and teens, health officials do have a list of the most common causes.

In children, the leading cause of drowning deaths is a lack of adult supervision - as well as children not wearing proper flotation devices while boating or swimming. Health officials also warn the most deaths were "around water, pools, bathtubs, and buckets of water. This is often at home – drowning can occur in as little as two inches of water."

As for teen-related drowning fatalities, health officials say these deaths are more likely to "occur in natural bodies of water such as lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, and the ocean."

Additionally, teens are at elevated risk of injury or death when activities include boating.

"Almost everyone that drowns while boating is not wearing a life jacket or other personal flotation device."

Health officials also caution that half of all drowning fatalities in teens over 14 involved alcohol or drug use.

It was also reported that drowning is "the most common cause of unintentional injury death" in teens with seizure disorders.

How to prevent drowning

To combat this unprecedented rise in drowning deaths, NY health officials curated a list of safe swimming habits everyone should follow.

"Drowning can occur anywhere there is water; from lakes and pools to bathtubs and buckets.

Drowning happens quickly and quietly. People often think that if someone is not calling for help that they are not drowning. Remember that when someone is drowning, they are trying to breathe, not speak. It may appear that the person is splashing or waving, but this may be an involuntary response to try to stay afloat. Progression from struggling to drowning can happen in as few as 20 seconds. Any delay in rescue can be fatal."

Topping the list of safety habits is about the buddy system.

"• Always swim with others, never enter the water alone. Keep an eye on each other.

•Always supervise your children around water.

•Stay within arm’s reach of a small child.

• Lifeguards do not replace the need for close supervision by a caregiver."

Those rules are especially important regarding those with medical conditions like a seizure disorder or heart problem.

Marzanna Syncerz/Think Stock

Health officials also encourage those who don't know how to swim, or aren't confident swimmers, to avoid going into waters greater than chest deep - in addition to wearing proper flotation devices.

These recommendations also lean heavily into education, such as learning how to properly swim, how to identify the signs of drowning, as well as how to provide CPR.

The list also includes some common-sense additions, such as never diving in waters lesser than 8-feet deep due to the increased risk of neck injuries, never swimming in inclement weather and not using drugs or alcohol while swimming because it could impair judgement.

How to protect your heath when swimming

Interestingly, NY officials are also advising residents to be wary about how the water can impact their health.

Sick man lying on sofa checking his temperature
Photo Credit: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/ThinkStock

Topping their list of recommendations is avoiding entering "water that is cloudy or discolored" and also not "swallowing water when swimming." Let's be honest, you never know what's floating around in those ponds, lakes, oceans, or pools.

Because of that, handwashing after swimming and "especially before eating" is strongly encouraged, too.

Other tidbits include not swimming when you have an open wound as well as avoiding the water when feeling ill and, most importantly, to not pee or poop in the water. Because that's disgusting and unsanitary.

Essentially, if you don't want to contract a nasty bug after a fun day of splashing around in the sun, do it in clean and clear water.

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