Virtually every child looks forward to summertime. School is out, the weather is great, and many get together for fun in the sun by playing in and around water. As parents, we try to encourage this type of fun but must also be mindful that it can be potentially very dangerous. For this reason, it’s important to know what types of precautions to take and what every parent needs to be aware of in terms of keeping their children safe in the water.
Despite a significant decline in childhood drowning deaths from 1987 to 2001, it still remains the second leading cause of death related to injuries among 1-14 year olds. In fact, when compared to motor vehicles, a swimming pool is fourteen times more likely to be involved in the death of children 5 years old or younger. Unfortunately, this health hazard is amongst the most preventable of injury-related accidents among children.
So, what can you do to help keep your children safe around water?
- There is no substitute for a 4-sided fence. This has been shown to be the most effective method in preventing accidental drowning among infants and toddlers, preventing up to 50% of drownings. Remember the rule of 4’s. 4 sides. 4 feet high. Using the side of a house as a 4th side is NOT acceptable. It must not be able to be climbed by children, it must have a self-closing or self-latching gate that is above the reach of children, and it must not have any items nearby that would allow children to climb up (furniture, rocks, etc.). Also keep in mind that this safety precaution is not only for your children but for others in the neighborhood as well.
- Pool covers, door alarms, and pool alarms work well in conjunction with fences but they are NOT a substitute for a 4-side pool fence.
- NEVER leave your child alone inside or anywhere near a pool. Use the “touch” rule. In other words, no child should be further away than an arm’s length at any time (can always be touched).
- Keep toys away from the swimming pool when not being used
- Keep in mind that most young children that drowned in pools had last been seen inside the home, were out of sight for less than 5 minutes, and had either one or both parents at home when it happened. In other words, no one expects accidents or drownings to happen and they can occur when you least expect it.
- Air-filled or foam flotation devices and toys are NOT a substitute for life jackets. They are not meant to be used as safety devices.
Natural Bodies of Water
- Be aware of weather conditions wherever you might be
- Life jackets while boating are a must, even for those who know how to swim.
- Alcohol is a major risk factor for drowning among adolescents. You cannot provide enough education about this to your teenagers
- Encourage adolescents to learn CPR. This also can’t be emphasized enough.
- If at the beach, follow all posted signs and flags. Do not underestimate bad weather, dangerous waves, or rip currents. This is particularly important for residents here in Missouri who travel elsewhere for vacation and may not be familiar with beach safety.
General Water Safety
- Learn CPR. This bears repeating. Anyone and everyone capable of learning CPR should do so.
- Bathtubs, buckets, pails, toilets, hot tubs, ponds, and other seemingly safe areas with water are potentially dangerous. Children can drown in as little as 1-2 inches of water. Don’t leave buckets filled with water. Don’t allow young children to have access to bathrooms unattended. Keep infants and toddlers under immediate (touch) supervision at all times
- Keep thermostats set below 120ºF to prevent accidental burns
- Children under 4 years of age are not developmentally ready for swimming lessons. This is NOT a recommended tool to prevent drowning. On the flipside, all children 4 years of age or older should learn how to swim.
There are many, many resources available for parents and children regarding water safety. I know as parents we are often overwhelmed with large amounts of information to know about various ways to keep our children safe. Trying to stay informed about everything can indeed be burdensome. This is why I wrote about this topic as it involves many children over the course of the summer months, is highly preventable, and can be achieved by following a few simple guidelines. Click through the links below to stay informed and receive additional information and details that were not covered above. Please be sure to also share this with other parents you know to help spread awareness. There aren’t many things more devastating than losing a child during a “fun” activity that can happen so quickly even with parents being immediately present. I hope this helps you or someone you know in preventing a tragic accident.