Swimming pools: Safe only when handled with care

The death this week of a 13-year-old girl training in a municipal swimming pool has once again called attention to staying safe in the water. Doctors have often emphasized the need for observing simple rules before diving into a pool and before letting children swim. If these rules were heeded, tragedies such as what happened to Magdalini Papathanassiou in the northern suburb of Halandri could be averted. Magdalini appears to have died from the effects of entering the pool too soon after eating. A lifeguard, doctor and coach could not save her, despite their intense efforts to do so. Drownings and other accidents in swimming pools not limited to children. According to a survey by Athens University’s Center for the Investigation and Prevention of Childhood Accidents, there are over 3,300 accidents at pools annually, 76.7 percent of them involving children up to the age of 19. Of these, only 19 percent involve tourists. Two in three occur in public pools, 28 percent at hotels and just 5 percent in private pools. About half of all accidents at pools are caused by slippery surrounding surfaces. One in five occur after dives into pools and 16 percent when actually in the water. Drownings or near-drownings account for only 1 percent of these accidents. Most result in injuries such as fractures. Only in one in 10 requires hospitalization. According to the experts, pool accidents are not unusual in Greece, and their frequency is expected to increase along with the number of pools being built if precautions are not taken. According to Dr Dionysis Papadatos, an associate of the center, people should not dive into a pool if they do not know how deep it is or are unfamiliar with its underwater features. Under no circumstances should anyone swim after eating a meal or drinking alcohol, a frequent cause of drowning in older people. Surfaces surrounding pools should be non-slippery, and a life-saving apparatus and telephone must be within reach. Above all, all pools should be fenced off to stop children from falling in or entering without supervision.

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