Note to summer swimmers

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by Henrylito D. Tacio

It was a warm Sunday morning in Davao City. Five-year-old Jane was swimming with other kids near the seashore. No adults were looking after them. Jane’s mother, Charlene, was busy preparing their food for lunch while the father, Jonathan, was buying soft drinks in the nearby store.

Suddenly, three consecutive big waves hit the kids. Jane was carried away into deeper water and before she knew it, she was already gasping and gulping a lot of water. The other kids could not help her since they, too, didn’t know how to swim. Jane went under. It was at this moment that Aida, a neighbor who was also at the beach, came and immediately rescued the drowning child.

But it seemed it was already late. Jane was too pale and was not moving. “Will somebody help us,” Aida shouted. Everyone who heard the shout came running. “What happened?” Charlene inquired and when she saw it was her daughter she was shocked.

Fortunately, Ferdinand, Aida’s son, and his friend, Renato, were around. Both had attended a first aid workshop a couple of weeks ago conducted by the Philippine National Red Cross. Sensing that Jane was no longer breathing, the two immediately performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. First, it was Ferdinand who breathed into Jane’s mouth. Afterwards, Renato took over.   Three minutes later, Jane vomited water and started breathing again.


In the Philippines, about eight persons die every day due to drowning, according to the country report presented at the World Conference on Drowning Prevention (WCDP) in 2011. Cases of near drowning were even higher: about 10 cases per day.

A research done by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) listed drowning as the fourth leading cause of death from injury in the Philippines. The top five causes were road traffic accidents (20%), gunshots (17%), stabbings (14%), drowning (12%), and electrocution and falls (4% each).

According to the findings of a study conducted by Safe Kids Philippines, the Philippine Life Saving Society and the Department of Health, almost 2,000 children die yearly from drowning.


Drowning and near drowning are two different terms. Near drowning is “severe oxygen deprivation” (suffocation) caused by submersion in water but not resulting in death; when death occurs, the event is called drowning.

“When a person is submerged under water, water enters the lungs,” explained “The Merck Manual of Medical Information.” “The vocal cords may go into severe spasm, temporarily preventing water from reaching the lungs. When filled with water, the lungs cannot efficiently transfer oxygen to the blood. The decrease in the level of oxygen in the blood that results may lead to brain damage and death.”

According to the Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO), drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide, accounting for 7% of all injury related deaths. It defines drowning as “the process of experiencing respiratory impairment from submersion/immersion in liquid.”

Drowning itself is quick and silent, although it may be preceded by distress which is more visible. “People who are drowning and struggling to breathe are usually unable to call for help,” the Merck manual reminded. “Children who are unable to swim may become submerged in less than one minute compared with adults, who may struggle longer.”


Still, for those who know, swimming is one good summer exercise. It works your whole body, improving cardiovascular conditioning, muscle strength, endurance, posture, and flexibility all at the same time. Your cardiovascular system in particular benefits because swimming improves your body’s use of oxygen without overworking your heart.

“Swimming with increasing effort to gradually increases your heart rate and stimulates your muscle activity is easily accomplished in the water,” explained Mathew Luebbers, a professional American coach, working with all ages of competitive swimmers, fitness swimmers, and triathletes.

“After a land workout, swimming a few laps can help you cool down, move blood through your muscles to help them recover, and help you relax as you glide through the water,” Luebbers said.

As you become fitter and are able to swim longer, your resting heart rate and respiratory rate will be reduced, making blood flow to the heart and lungs more efficiently. If you’re looking to lose weight, swimming is just the ticket.

While most of the exercises concentrate on a single section of your muscles, swimming exercise works all your muscles. It works on overall muscles and helps strengthen them. One of the swimming health facts is that it promotes fat loss. It is the best exercise for burning calories and for losing body weight.

“On average,” points out the Lifescript Editorial Staff, “a swimmer can burn as many calories in an hour as a runner who runs six miles in one hour.” No wonder,



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