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Laura Hutton via Photocall Ireland
water safety

Think before you jump in, 140 people drown in Ireland every year

Alcohol is a contributory factor in nearly a third of all drownings.

THE RECENT SPATE of good weather has seen a huge increase in the number of people flocking to the water to cool down.

The country’s beaches, rivers and lakes are a popular destination when the sun comes out but just because it’s relaxing to dip in the water – doesn’t mean you should relax when it comes to your safety.

Irish Water Safety is urging people to take precautions as an average of 140 people drown in Ireland every year.

Forty children aged 14 and under have drowned in the space of ten years.

IWS says that 80% of the drownings happen in the victim’s local environment.

People drown silently, quickly and sometimes in only inches of water. They can drown beside others who are completely unaware.
The IWS has this advice for staying safe in the water:
  • Swim with others, never alone
  • Swim in daylight not in darkness
  • Pay attention to signs on the beach
  • Learn to use equipment before trying it out
  • Avoid swimming in unfamiliar places
  • Allow time to rest after eating or if tired
  • Stay in the water for short periods
  • Swim parallel and close to the shore
  • Never use inflatable toys in open water

Children are particularly at risk and need constant supervision.

‘Never drink and dive, swim or sail’

Meanwhile is reminding everybody that alcohol and swimming don’t mix.

Alcohol consumption is a contributory factor in nearly a third of all drownings in Ireland each year.

Alcohol slows down people’s reaction time, impacts their coordination, and affects their perception of distance and direction and when it comes to water-sports – this can be an extremely dangerous combination.

Fionnuala Sheehan, chief executive of says “it’s really important for people to know what a standard drink is and how long it takes for it to leave your body. This isn’t a message just for when you’re getting behind the wheel of a car.

“There’s approximately one standard drink in a glass—not a pint—of beer, lager, or cider; a small glass of wine; or a single pub-measure of spirits. On average, it takes about an hour for the body to process a standard drink.

The message from is to never ever drink and dive or swim or sail…

“If you’ve had a few drinks and plan to go out on or into the water, then we would encourage you to do the maths and hold off until the alcohol is gone from your system.”

Water Babies

Parents are being warned that a drowning can happen in less time than it takes to answer the telephone or tend to another child.

Water Babies, which offer swimming lessons to babies, warn that the combination of holidays, sunshine, water and children can be a lethal combination.

Following an increase in the number of drownings in Ireland last year, Carol McNally from Water Babies is urging parents to be extra vigilant this summer:

We all look forward to getting away from it all, chilling out and letting our little ones splash around. And parents tend to relax and gain a false sense of security for children in a holiday setting, when in fact they should be more attentive than ever.

Sadly, a primary factor in cases of fatal drowning is down to the initial shock, when a toddler or child falls into the water.

McNally explains that “very young children react instantly and adversely to sudden and unexpected submersion and are temporarily paralysed with fear”.

Water Babies primary goal is to teach babies vital lifesaving skills, such as swimming and holding on to the nearest solid object or turning onto their backs.

Water Babies believe that a baby or toddler who is confident in the water and has been taught these simple survival skills stands a far better chance of coping with an unexpected immersion. It has these tips for parents:

  • Parents must keep an eye on their children at all times – they can be easily distracted chatting to other parents, reading a newspaper or talking on the phone
  • Supervising adults should be in arms reach of children under five so that if a child slips underwater, they can be pulled to safety immediately
  • The adult watching must be able to swim and not afraid to jump in the water
  • If leaving, even momentarily, take your child or designate a known adult to supervise – never leave an older sibling in charge around water.

McNally says that “over the years we’ve been incredibly proud to share the credit for having helped save a significant number of children’s lives.

Water Babies have fallen into canals, swollen streams, private swimming pools – and survived, thanks to the skills they learnt with us.

Water Babies operate classes in Dublin, Meath, Kildare, Louth, Galway, Sligo, Waterford, Wexford, Tipperary, Kilkenny and Wexford.

Read: ‘Mindless vandalism’ of life rings along River Boyne puts lives at risk>

Read: Brave fireman jumps off bridge to save drowning woman in Limerick>

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