Safety ahoy

Kids and their families love boats. Here’s how to keep everyone safer on the water.

Safety ahoy
Life jackets are a necessity for fun on the water—no matter your age. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Michigan’s beautiful lakes have always made it a boater’s paradise.

The Great Lakes State boasts 40,175 square miles of water. Only Alaska has more, at 94,743 square miles.

That means Michigan also has much higher boat ownership rates than most of the country. About 22% of all Michigan households own some sort of boat, jet ski, canoe, kayak or paddleboard.

Anticipating a post-pandemic push to get back on the water, safety experts say parents and children need to approach this boating season a little differently.

Drownings top the list of worries, said Erica Michiels, MD, who specializes in pediatric emergency medicine at Spectrum Health.

For kids 14 and younger, drowning is the second-leading cause of death, behind motor vehicle accidents. When excluding for deaths as a result of birth defects, drowning is the most common cause of death in the 1- to 4-year-old age group, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some studies have already found drowning incidents are on the rise in the Great Lakes, with a spike in incidents reported last summer on Lake Huron, Lake Michigan and Lake Ontario.

Beyond this, plenty of other things can go wrong on the lake, turning a day of water fun into a scary trip to the emergency room.

Boats frequently collide with other recreational vehicles, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, which tracks national and state statistics for recreational boating.

Sometimes people are struck by propellers. There are water skiing, wake surfing and tubing mishaps, engine fires and plenty of bad sunburns.

Parents can prevent many of these accidents by focusing on four areas.

1. Make life jackets a priority

Michigan law requires all children younger than 6 to wear a properly fitted life preserver while on the deck of a boat. Boats also need a life preserver available for every person.

“Most people do a good job of following those regulations,” Dr. Michiels said.

But she thinks it’s essential for everyone in the family to wear a life jacket, no matter what.

“People often think, ‘I’m a good swimmer, I could rescue my kids,’ or, ‘Oh, my kid can swim,'” she said. “But how well can anyone swim if they just hit their head in a collision? Or if they are thrown from the boat, unconscious?

“And many boat accidents happen so fast,” she said, “so there’s little time to react.”

Cold water, especially in Lake Superior, adds another risk, she said.

“That causes an immediate hyperventilation response, which can cause people to pass out,” she said. “It can also cause them to breathe so fast that they take in water.”

It’s especially important for teens to see adults wearing life jackets.

“They are often just doing what their parents do,” she said. “But because they have so much less experience operating boats, it’s much more dangerous for them to go without a vest.”

The Coast Guard estimates that life vests could help prevent 80% of all boating fatalities.

Make sure the vest fits right. Check the label for weight or chest size recommendations, according to the Boat U.S. Foundation. Have your child try it on, buckling and tightening all straps. Ask your child to raise her arms, then gently pick her up by the top of the life jacket arm openings.

If it rides up above her ears, it’s too big.

2. Get schooled in regulations

Learn more about boater safety in Michigan. If you plan to let your teen boat alone, insist they take a safety course.

“We do so much with teaching teens drivers ed, but because boating is done on the wide-open water, parents worry less,” Dr. Michiels said.

But just as teens are more likely to be involved in car accidents, they’re more apt to have boating collisions, too.

Jet skis, which can go as fast as 50 mph, can be especially dangerous.

The sharp increase in boat sales during the pandemic—a jump of more than 9% in 2020—makes this more important. While it’s great that more families are out there enjoying the water, it also means there are potentially more inexperienced sailors, creating hazards for everyone.

3. Don’t drink and boat

As tempting as it may be to pack that cooler of beer, reconsider. Alcohol is the most common contributing factor in boating accidents, according to the Coast Guard.

That doesn’t just apply to those operating the boat, but other adults who can easily be distracted from supervising children.

“Watch how people behave on a pontoon boat,” she said. “The adults step on, crack a beer and start enjoying themselves, often forgetting that kids can be especially unpredictable in situations they’re not used to.” 

4. Stay focused

It’s vital for people to remember that drowning is called a “silent killer.”

“If your child falls in the water and starts to struggle, you won’t hear her,” Dr. Michiels said. “She’ll be using all her energy to try and stay afloat—she won’t be able to scream.”

It’s smart to constantly remind yourself that you are your child’s most important safety role model.

“Kids mimic adults,” she said. “The more grown-ups model safe behavior in boats, the more likely they are to have an impact on kids.”

Source : Health Beat More   

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COVID-19 Caused U.S. Life Expectancy to Drop 1.5 Years

It is the largest annual decline since 1943, in the middle of World War II.

COVID-19 Caused U.S. Life Expectancy to Drop 1.5 Years

Life expectancy in the United States dropped the most in more than seven decades last year as Covid-19 sent hundreds of thousands of Americans to early deaths.

The pandemic’s disproportionate toll on communities of color also widened existing gaps in life expectancy between White and Black Americans, according to estimates released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The tally represents an extraordinarily grim accounting of an ongoing catastrophe. The first year of the pandemic delivered a bigger blow to American life expectancy than any year of the Vietnam War, the AIDS crisis or the “deaths of despair” that nudged down life expectancies in the mid-2010s.
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“It’s staggering and depressing,” said Noreen Goldman, a professor of demography and public affairs at Princeton University. “The U.S. lags behind virtually all high-income countries in life expectancy, and now it’s lagging further behind.”

The pace of Covid-19 deaths dropped sharply as vaccinations spread in the first half of 2021. But it’s unclear how long it will take for life expectancy to rebound. The U.S. has recorded a total of 609,000 Covid deaths since the pandemic began. More than 43% occurred in 2021, with almost half the year still to come.

The first year of the pandemic reduced Americans’ life expectancy at birth by 1.5 years, to 77.3 years. That erased the country’s gains since 2003. It was the largest annual decline since 1943, in the middle of World War II. Goldman said that it was the second largest decline since the 1918 influenza pandemic, which is believed to have killed some 50 million people worldwide.

The 2020 pandemic decline widened the distance between the U.S. and other wealthy democracies like France, Israel, South Korea and the U.K., according to research recently published in The BMJ journal.

“This is not a decline that happened in other high-income countries, so something went terribly wrong in the U.S. where the number of Americans who died was vastly in excess of what it needed to be,” said Steven Woolf, director emeritus of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University and one of the authors of the BMJ study.

Life expectancy is a statistical construct that reflects death rates in a given place and time. The CDC report describes life expectancy at birth as the “average number of years a group of infants would live if they were to experience throughout life the age-specific death rates prevailing during a period.” It isn’t meant to predict the actual lifespans that people born in that period will experience. Rather, it’s a way to compare death rates across geographies and years.

Covid accounted for three-quarters of the decline in 2020. Unintentional injuries, a category that includes record fatal drug overdoses for 2020, also dragged down the measure, as did homicides, diabetes and liver disease. The drop would have been steeper had it not been offset by fewer deaths from other factors including cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, heart disease and suicide.

All demographic groups saw declines in life expectancy in 2020. But the drops weren’t evenly distributed. Men lost more ground than women. Hispanic Americans, who have longer life expectancies than White or Black Americans, recorded the greatest losses during Covid, with life expectancy dropping three full years, double the rate of the country as a whole.

Black Americans likewise recorded a 2.9-year loss of life expectancy. That decline widened the gap between Black people and White people in the U.S., a disparity in life expectancy that had been shrinking since the 1990s. Life expectancy for White Americans declined by 1.2 years in 2020.

“There’s no biological reason for people of a certain skin color to die at higher rates of a virus,” Woolf said, noting that the disparate impact reflects structural inequities.

Skewed representation in frontline jobs like retail, meatpacking, transport and health care, combined with higher rates of chronic conditions, put people of color both at increased risk of exposure to Covid and increased risk of dying from it, Goldman said.

Unequal access to health care, language barriers, and crowded or multigenerational housing also contributed to the virus’s disproportionate toll on Hispanic and Black populations, she said.

The estimates published by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics reflect death certificate data reported by states and cities. The report didn’t include data on populations of Asian Americans, American Indians, Alaskan Natives, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders.

As alarming as the one-year drop in life expectancy in 2020 is, Woolf said that more attention should focus on the decades-long gap in life expectancy that has cut short more American lives than Covid has.

In the 20th century, life expectancy generally increased in wealthy countries as science and sanitation helped conquer infectious diseases. In the U.S., troubling signs that the country wasn’t keeping up with other nations’ gains in the measure emerged in the 1990s. This divergence came to be known as the U.S. health disadvantage.

“The more important issue than the acute event we’re seeing right now in life expectancy is the long-term trend,” Woolf said. “That’s actually much scarier for the U.S. than what we’re reporting for 2020, as strange as that might sound.”

Source : Time More   

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