Kids and water: They may not want to drink a lot of it, but they sure love to play in it. Now that the magical season of summer is almost here, there will be a lot of children doing just that. While you may think you already know everything there is to know on water safety, it’s still a good idea for parents, guardians and babysitters to freshen-up on ways to help keep kids safe when around or in water.
The good news, according to a study published by the Bloomberg School of Public Health at John Hopkins University in 2012, is that more parents ARE paying attention to water safety. Children dying from drowning–related incidents have declined dramatically since the early 1990s.
Unfortunately, more than 1,000 U.S. children still die from drowning and another 5,000 are injured every year. Dying from drowning isn’t the only serious outcome that can occur. Nonfatal drowning can also result in brain damage and long-term disability.
Children less than 4 years old are most likely to die in drowning incidents, usually in bathtubs or after falling into water. Older children are more likely to drown while swimming, according to research cited in the study, with the risk rising in warmer regions of the South and West that have longer swimming seasons.
Let’s review a few water safety tips, provided by kidshealth.org, and USA Today News that may help your little one from becoming one of the heart-breaking statistics listed above.
Supervision: The number one rule for water safety and children is that an adult, preferably one who knows CPR, is overseeing any child or group of children in water – whether the water is in a bathtub, a wading pool, an ornamental fish pond, a swimming pool, a spa, the beach, or a lake. If you don’t know how to swim, learn. A parent or guardian who can actually enter the water and retrieve a child is able to respond faster, when a child is in trouble, than someone who has to wait for help to arrive.
Floatation Devices: Invest in proper fitting, Coast Guard-approved flotation devices (life vests) and use them whenever a child is near water. Check the weight and size recommendations on the label, then have your child try it on to make sure it fits snugly. For kids younger than 5 years old, choose a vest with a strap between the legs and head support — the collar will keep the child’s head up and face out of the water. Inflatable vests and arm devices such as water wings are not effective protection against drowning.
Pool Safety: If you have a pool on your property, you also have a huge responsibility when it comes to water safety. Unfenced or poorly fenced pools are magnets for small children, especially curious toddlers. A small child can slip out of the house and be in a pool in a matter of minutes. Check your fence thoroughly on a regular basis. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has pool fencing standards listed on their website at http://www.cpsc.gov.
Water Wisdom: Kids are not the best judges of safe play in and around water. They need guidance. Teach your child proper pool, lake and spa behavior. Let them know they should contact a pool guard or an adult if they witness an emergency.
Pushing, shoving, running around the perimeters of a pool and diving in without checking to see if someone else is in your line of projection are some examples of dangerous play. I know… it’s hard to keep kids from doing what they are most inclined to do, but that’s where being a responsible parent or guardian comes in. Just do it. Kids can still have a ton of fun without endangering everyone around them and themselves.
Lightening and bad weather: Get everyone out of the pool or lake and into a safe building immediately. Enough said.
Safety Equipment: Make sure you have a charged cell phone with you. You don’t want to have to find your phone when seconds count. It’s a good idea to have 9-1-1 programmed into your quick dial feature. If you have a call while you’re watching your kids – make it brief. You can always call them back once the kids are safely out of the water.
Have a long pole or a rope with a floatable device at the end, near the pool. These types of simple objects might be just the thing that saves a child’s life. Pool cleaning poles are great – they are usually pretty sturdy and can expand when needed.
Swimming lessons: If your child is going to be playing in or around water, make sure they know how to swim. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) used to recommend that you not begin formal swimming lessons until kids are at least 4 years old but they are no longer against aquatic programs and swimming lessons for younger toddlers and preschoolers between the ages of one to four years old.
While it’s great that your child knows how to swim, don’t let a false sense of security lesson your diligence when overseeing kids in the water. Many an adult and child have drowned that knew how to swim.
Water safety reminders: These facts aren’t listed to scare you so much that you deny your child the experience of playing in a pool or lake, but to remind you that things can change quickly and that’s why it’s so important to always be a diligent supervisor when little ones are in or around water.
– In 2006, 1100 children under age 20 died from drowning, and for every child who drowns, three or four receive emergency department care for near-drowning or non-fatal submersion injuries, some of which lead to serious injuries including brain damage.
– Most young children who drown do so in a home pool.
– Most of these children were left unsupervised for less than 5 minutes.
– Drowning usually occur in the summer months, from May to August.
– Drowning rates are highest on the weekends (Friday to Sunday) and at noon and 6pm.
If you own a pool and your child is missing- check there first. Go to the edge of the pool and scan the entire pool, bottom and surface, as well as the area around the pool.
Remove any toys that are left in the pool after the children get out. Toys floating in the water or sitting at the bottom of a pool are just too much of a temptation for toddlers and small children.
There are more in depth articles on the web that give more specifics regarding as pool fencing and water safety equipment. They are very helpful in explaining what works and what doesn’t.
So, enjoy the summer and the water – it’s refreshing and fun. And don’t forget the sunscreen!