It’s summer, and some of the best ways to cool down from the heat
is to get into the water. But water can be dangerous for young children,
whether swimming in a lake or pool, boating on a river, or even splashing
in a bathtub. In fact, drowning is the leading cause of injury-related
death among children between 1 and 4 years old.
Parents can protect their kids from drowning or other water hazards with
these common-sense tips from the American Pediatrics Association:
- Never leave a child unattended around water. Babies can drown in as little
as one inch of water.
- Be aware of the water your child might encounter, such as fishponds, ditches,
fountains, rain barrels, watering cans, even buckets. Empty containers,
including inflatable wading pools, after each use, and store them upside down.
- Children who are swimming—even in a shallow toddler's pool—always
should be watched by an adult, preferably one who knows CPR, who is within
arm's length for "touch supervision."
- Swimming lessons are no guarantee against drowning in young children; even
a child who knows how to swim needs to be watched constantly.
- When swimming at a lake or pond, make sure kids wear foot protection to
avoid injury from rocks, broken glass or trash, and be alert for underwater
weeds or grass that could entangle them.
- At the beach, make sure to swim only when and where a lifeguard is on duty.
- Beaches have special dangers like currents and tides; don’t take
your children swimming in large waves or undertows, stand with your back
to the water (a sudden wave can knock you over), or swim close to piers
or pilings because water movement may push you into them.
- Ensure each child always wear a life jacket when he swims or rides in a
boat. A life jacket fits properly if you can't lift it off over your
child's head after he's been fastened into it. For kids under
age five, it also should have a flotation collar to keep heads upright
and faces out of the water.
- Don't allow your child to use inflatable toys or mattresses in place
of a life jacket; they may deflate suddenly, or your child may slip off.
- It doesn't take long for hypothermia (when the body loses heat faster
than it can produce it) to set in. If a child is shivering or has muscle
cramps, get him or her out of the water immediately.
- Enforce safety rules: No running near the pool, no pushing others underwater
and no diving in the shallow end.
- Backyard swimming pools, (including above-ground pools), should be completely
surrounded with a 4-foot high fence, with no foot or handrails to climb.
Gates should be self-closing and self-latching, and the latch out of kids'
reach. Keep toys out of the pool area when not in use so children are
not tempted to try to get through the fence.
- If your pool has a cover, remove it completely before swimming. Never allow
your child to walk on the pool cover; your child could fall through and
become trapped underneath.
- Keep a safety ring with a rope beside the pool at all times.
- Eliminate distractions while children are in the water. Talking on the
phone, working on the computer and other tasks need to wait until children
are out of the water.
- Above all, supervise your kids at all times. Don't assume that just
because your child took swimming lessons or is using a flotation device
that there's no drowning risk.