With summer comes warm weather and swimming. But for some people, knowing how to swim may not be enough to ensure their safety.
That’s because certain medical conditions bump up the risk for drowning in a big way, according to a new Canadian study.
About one in three adults and children over age 10 who drowned in Canada between 2007 and 2016 had a chronic health condition, the study found.
Those at the top of the list were folks with ischemic heart disease, a common condition, and those with seizure disorders. Women aged 20 to 34 who had seizure disorders had a drowning risk that was 23 times greater than that of the general population, the researchers said.
“It is one of the risks that we warn people about, one of the risks that we are very, very aware of, acutely aware of,” says Dr. Jacqueline French, a professor of neurology at the NYU School of Medicine in New York City and chief medical officer of the Epilepsy Foundation.
It’s a risk a doctor will discuss with someone who has a new epilepsy diagnosis, French adds.
How these health conditions affect swimming
For the study, the research team used data on almost 4,300 drownings from a Canadian database.
Most drownings happened while someone was alone. Activities that led to drowning were swimming (25%) and boating (24%), with 36% occurring in lakes or ponds. About 81% of people who drowned were male. About 63% of drownings happened in urban areas, the investigators found.
“If you have a heart attack on the ground, if you’re walking or you’re sitting quietly, you can call 911, or if you’re having chest pain while you’re walking, you can stop,” says Dr. Benjamin Levine, a professor of internal medicine at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
“But if you’re in a lake or in the ocean and you’re in deep water, you kind of can’t stop. And if you get an arrhythmia, which is when your heart starts to beat erratically, that can make you faint or lose consciousness,” he adds.
“It’s a dangerous place to have something that causes you to lose consciousness or lose your ability to