Thursday, June 30, 2011

Summer water safety

With summer here and the heat it brings we all like to think of ways to cool off and enjoy being outside.  With kids that usually means some sort of water activity.  According to the CDC Children ages 1-4 have the highest drowning rates. In 2007 30% of all unintentional injury-related deaths of that age group were from drowning.  In that same year there were 3,443 deaths from non boat related drownings.  That’s an average of 10 deaths per day.  Non-fatal drowingings are also a problem and can lead to brain damage and long-term disabilities including memory problems, learning disabilities and the loss of basic functioning (ex, vegetative state).

So now that you’re scared and don’t want your kids near the water let’s talk about ways you can still enjoy the water while staying safe.  Keep in mind, most of the risk factors are from kids being unsupervised near water.  Many parents think that a small level of water couldn’t harm their child.  But it’s possible to drown in 2” of water.  

"Watch children around water" Safety Campaign Mural
Photo Credit: Al_HikesAZ
So the number one way to keep your children safe around water?  Supervision. It’s that simple.  Watch your kids, be aware of what they can and can’t do and be within arms reach.  An early walker can easily slip and fall under or face first and not be able to get themselves back up.  It’s possible for any aged person, including an adult, to slip and hit their head.  So for added protection use the buddy system.  Have other people with you who are also swimming or sitting near by.  If at all possible swim where there are lifeguards. The CDC reports that children aged 1-4 who participated in formal swimming lessons had an 88% reduction in drowning incidents.  Whether that is due to the parents being more aware of swimming safety or the child’s ability is not clear.  In general, anyone who takes swimming lessons is less likely to drown.   But swimming lessons are not a substitute for supervision.  When watching a child, do not be distracted by other things like reading a book, talking on the phone, surfing the internet, or any other activity.  The child is your priority!

Residential pools are where most drownings occur.  The best way to protect your child in those situations is to be sure there is an adequate fence around the pool.  The pool should be completely enclosed on all four sides. For added protection you can get alarms on the gate and the pool.  The gate alarm would go off whenever it was opened and then you have the extra protection of an alarm on the pool so that if something gets into it (from a child or pet who shouldn’t to an intruder trying to take an unauthorized dip).  If you are visiting a home with a pool and they don’t have a gate, then it’s best to keep your child with you at all times.  A turned back for one minute is enough time for a child to slip away and wander off.  Also, do not keep the pool and deck around it covered in toys.  Toys are too tempting of a lure for kids to figure out a way past the fence and the alarm to get to.  They should be put away and out of sight when an adult is not there to supervise.

If you’re on a boat be sure that everyone has a life jacket, including yourself.  The U.S. Coast Guard reported that in 2009 that of the 736 people who died 9 out of 10 were not wearing life jackets.  And before you wonder, yes they do make life jackets for babies.  My research has shown you can find one for babies as small as 15 lbs.  DO NOT use air-filled or foam toys in replacement of life jackets. THEY ARE NOT THE SAME THING.  “Water wings”, inner-tubes or “noodles” are not designed to keep swimmers safe.  Water wings only keep the arms lightly buoyant, not the entire body like a life jacket.  It’s so easy to slip out of an inner-tube or off a “noodle”, but a life jacket is attached to your body.  Which brings me to the next point-   don’t just have the life jackets on the boat “in case of emergency”.  In an emergency you don’t have time to get them on yourself or your children.  Do not leave dry land without the jackets on.  It’s like a seat belt, it only works when in use.

So with some simple and easy prevention you can safely enjoy the summer fun of playing in water!
Kids Swimming
Photo credit: Clintus McGintus


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