Health Watch -- Water Safety

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It's not just oil and water that don't mix. Alcohol and water don't mix, either.

Whether you're at the pool, the ocean or the lake, doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say alcohol mixed with water recreation is a dangerous combination. About half of all adult drownings in the United States involve alcohol. These are drownings that could have been prevented.

Dr. Paul Pepe, chairman of emergency medicine at UT Southwestern, says alcohol impairs your judgment and reactions. Around water, that creates a dangerous situation. Just as you shouldn't drive when you've been drinking, you shouldn't swim, boat or do other activities in or around water when you're under the influence of alcohol. In most communities, operating a boat under the influence of alcohol carries penalties similar to driving under the influence. On holiday weekends, lake patrols are likely to be out in force.

It's especially important not to drink when you're supervising children. The slower reaction times caused by alcohol could keep you from reacting in time to rescue a child who gets into danger. When you're supervising children at the pool or lake, it only takes a second for a child to get in trouble, and you need your wits about you.

Dr. Pepe suggests that you teach children about the dangers of alcohol and water recreation by setting a good example and not drinking before or during swimming or boating.

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May 2004

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