There might not be a better way to enjoy the summer than taking a dip in the pool with friends and family. Overlooking safety precautions, however, can turn a pleasant day at the pool into a tragedy. Preparedness is essential to safe swimming, especially when it comes to children. “Children need to learn to swim,” says Dr. Jeffrey Weiss, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. “But even advanced swimming skills cannot ‘drown-proof’ a child of any age.” Fortunately, Americans are becoming safer around pools and other bodies of water. Drowning rates have fallen steadily over the past two decades, but it is still the second-leading cause of accidental death among children aged 1-19. It’s an everyday risk that families need to consider. But with the necessary precautions, that risk can be minimized.
At no point should small children be left unsupervised by swimming pools. The same goes for bathtubs, spas, wading pools and open bodies of water. Toddlers have been known to drown in a bucket of water. Leaving toddlers under the supervision of another young child isn’t a suitable alternative. An adult should be within arm’s length while watching toddlers, infants or weak swimmers. Even if a child is older or a more-proficient swimmer, adults should keep a watchful eye and not get distracted
Teaching children to swim is an important way to reduce the risk of drowning. The AAP encourages swimming lessons for most children starting at age 4. Parents may also choose to enroll a 1- to 3-year-old child in swimming lessons, though not every child will be ready at the same age. And when not helping their children swim, parents should take a CPR course to learn correct life-saving techniques. If teens are involved, they should be taught the dangers of playing in the pool whenever alcohol is involved.
When it comes to equipping children with the right kind of flotation aids to help them in the water, there are several misconceptions. While they are popular with children, air-filled swimming aids — like inflatable arm bands — do not provide sufficient flotation in the water and can easily deflate. Make sure children wear proper life jackets, especially when they’re riding in a boat or sitting on a river bank or pier.
Before allowing children to jump into any body of water, adults must first check its depth. Instead of diving headfirst to test the water, you should enter feet first. If you’re inspecting a body of water, be sure to check for a lifeguard or anyone else supervising the area. “To best protect children, parents need to think about layers of protection. Swimming lessons can be an important part of the overall protection, which should also include a four-sided fence around the pool and constant, capable supervision,” says Weiss. “Also, because some portable or temporary pools have soft sides, it’s very easy for a child to lean over and fall headfirst into the water. These pools pose a constant danger and need a fence just like a permanent pool.” Keeping this information in mind can help ensure a child’s swimming experiences are both fun and safe.
For more information contact Safe Kids Grand Forks at firstname.lastname@example.org. Altru Health System is proud to serve as the lead agency for Safe Kids Grand Forks.