Lake and pool season is in full swing and it’s always the right time to brush up on water safety. Accidental drowning is the leading cause of death in children ages one to four, and the second leading cause of unintentional injury death in children ages one to fourteen years old. It’s important that we teach children to respect, but not fear, the water.
WATER SAFETY & THE ENVIRONMENT
Drowning can occur in as little as two inches of water. It’s important that we are aware of hazards in our environment, as prevention is the first step to keeping our children safe.
- Backyard kiddie pools, large buckets and bathtubs should be actively supervised during use and made inaccessible or emptied when not in use. Close bathroom doors and use child-proof door knob covers, and secure toilet lids – never allow children to play alone in the bathroom.
- If you have an in-ground pool at your home, the safest option is to fence it in with a 4 sided fence at least four feet high, with a self-closing gate/latch, which can reduce the risk of drowning by 83% compared to a three-sided system with the fourth side being the house. If your pool is framed by your house on one side, ensure doors from your house to the pool are equipped with an alert system and a child proof locking system.
- If you have an above-ground pool, the safest is option is to fully enclose it. Always remove the ladder from the pool when not in use/under supervision, and keep items away from it that a child could stand on to get into the pool (i.e. furniture, toys, buckets). Keep spas covered when not in use.
- Be aware of your potential hazards in your environment. In addition to pools and spas, are there bodies of water (ponds, wells, fountains, irrigation/drainage ditches, retention ponds) in your neighborhood? If you are unable to locate your child, always check these areas first.
WATER SAFETY & PARENTAL VIGILANCE
Parental vigilance and supervision is the most important factor when it comes to water safety. 1 out 3 parents have left a child alone in a pool for 2+ minutes, but drowning is quick – once a child begins to struggle, you could have less than a minute to react! Watching your child in the water is your responsibility – a lifeguard’s job is not to supervise your child, but to “enforce rules, scan, rescue, and resuscitate.” (Safe Kids Worldwide)
- Your child of any age should be under constant adult supervision during water play, at beaches, rivers, pools, and ponds. Bring another adult with you, as providing constant supervision can be exhausting. Trade off with your partner or a friend you can trust.
- Put the phone (and other distractions) away. Experts estimate it takes just 10-20 seconds for a child to drown – that’s less time than it takes to send a text, like: “Yeah, I’m hanging out at the pool with kiddos and soaking up some Vitamin D.” That’s less time than it takes to put your hair in an updo. Than it takes to dig through your snack bag looking for your toddler’s fruit snacks. We enjoy meeting our friends and their children at the pools and beaches during the summer, but it’s not a time to catch up with your BFF. Many drownings occur while a parent is present but distracted.
- Keep your young child (0-4 year olds or older beginner swimmers) within arm’s reach during water activities. If you’re with your child in the water but having a conversation with another adult, or if your eyes are on another child, keep your hand on your young child until you can return your full attention to them.
Additionally, parents should:
- Limit time in water and build in frequent rest, hydration and food breaks. Water activities can quickly exhaust young children, who may not recognize how tired their bodies are.
- Have your child wear brightly colored swimsuits to make them easy to spot (avoid blue!)
- Avoid alcoholic beverages during water activities. Alcohol can affect your alertness and response time as well as impair your ability to swim.
- Don’t permit wheeled toys near water, as a child may be thrown from them into the water. (Think bikes, trikes, scooters, skateboards, skates, push toys, wagons and walkers.)
- Silence is suspicious. Drowning is subtle and silent; don’t expect to hear a shout for help or sounds of splashing or struggling!
- Have your older children always swim with a buddy. Older children (age recommendations vary from 12-14) who are competent swimmers should always swim with a competent “buddy”, even if you permit them to swim unsupervised.
WATER SAFETY & CPR
Every parent should learn CPR and whenever possible, renew every two years to refresh their knowledge. Reach out to your local community ed, local hospitals, the American Red Cross, or American Heart Association for opportunities to get CPR certification.
Come back next week to learn all about swim lessons and personal floatation devices as essential to water safety!