Summer is in full gear and that means family outings at the pool or vacations to the beach. What that also means is safety – for adults and children! When most of us are enjoying time at the pool or beach, injuries aren’t the first thing on our minds. Yet, drownings are a leading cause of death for young children ages 1 to 14 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and three children die every day as a result of drowning. Among preventable injuries, drowning is the leading cause of death for children 1 – 4 years old. Children 1 – 4 years old are more likely to drown in a pool. Children 5 years and older are more likely to drown in natural water, such as ponds, lakes and rivers. Parents play a key role in protecting the children they love from drowning. Here are some key prevention tips to help ensure your family has a fun, yet safe day at the pool or beach.
Learn life-saving skills.
Everyone should know the basics of swimming (floating, moving through the water) and CPR.
Fence it off.
Install a fence around backyard swimming pools. This can help keep children away from the area when they aren’t supposed to be swimming. Pool fences should completely separate the house and play area from the pool.
Make life jackets a must.
Make sure kids wear life jackets in and around natural bodies of water, such as lakes or the ocean, even if they know how to swim. Life jackets can be used in and around pools for weaker swimmers too. Arm floaties are great, as well, for smaller children.
Be on the lookout.
When kids are in or near water, closely supervise them at all times. Because drowning happens quickly and quietly, adults watching kids in or near water should avoid distracting activities like something simple as talking on the phone.
Swimming is a fun, active, and healthy way to spend leisure time. Take a few minutes to keep health and safety in mind to help prevent illness and injury.
• Ask a buddy to join you when swimming so you don’t swim alone.
• Choose swimming sites that have lifeguards.
• Avoid drinking alcohol before and during swimming.
• Don’t swallow pool water.
• Don’t swim when you have diarrhea. Germs can spread in the water and make other people sick.
• Take a shower and wash your child before swimming.
• Take your kids on bathroom breaks every 60 minutes, or check diapers every 30-60 minutes.
• Change diapers in a bathroom or a diaper-changing area and not at poolside. Germs can spread in and around the pool.
• Wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers before getting in the pool.
• Watch children in and around water at all times.
• Make sure to keep your ears as dry as possible to help prevent swimmer’s ear.
Corri Miller-Hobbs, Safe Kids Virginia program coordinator at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU comments, “Swimming should be fun, not frightening. Helping parents understand the major misconceptions about drownings can help save a life.”
The four main misconceptions are:
• I will hear my child if he/she gets in trouble in the water and starts to drown.
• Nothing bad will happen if I take my full attention off of my child for a couple of minutes.
• If there is a lifeguard present, I don’t need to worry as much about actively supervising my child in and around water.
• If my child has had swim lessons I don’t have to worry about him/her drowning.
“Active adult supervision is key, and adults should rotate turns acting as a ‘water watcher’ to ensure all children are swimming safely.” says Miller-Hobbs.