by Julia Wilson, Edmonson County Extension Office:
When the summer heat is making you sweat, hitting the pool is a great way to keep the family cool. While swimming is a ton of fun and a great activity for the whole family, it could prove to be dangerous, even deadly.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the fifth leading cause of unintentional injury death for people of all ages, and the second leading cause of injury death for children ages 1 to 14 years. Drowning is one of the top 10 leading causes of death for children in every region of the world. Here are some ways we can prevent deadly accidents from happening the next time we are hanging out by water.
Talk about it. Talk with your children about water safety. Nearly 70 percent of childhood drownings happen when kids aren’t swimming. Tell your children that they should not go near water without an adult present. That means taking a bath, going to the neighbor’s pool, or dangling our feet in the water while sitting on the side. Accidents happen, we trip, slip, and stumble which could lead to injury. It is important to stress the dangers of water on a regular basis.
Insist on supervision. While most public pools have paid lifeguards, family pools do not. Make certain an adult is always watching the water. This becomes challenging at family gatherings because when everyone is watching, no one is watching. When one person is not assigned or designated to watch children, then everyone tends to think someone else is doing it. Identify one or two adults as “water watchers” and have them wear a name tag or carry a whistle. The name tag or whistle allows them to know they are on duty, and when it is the next adult’s turn, they have something to hand over as a symbol of their responsibility.
Put your phone down. It only takes seconds for a child to slip beneath the surface and drown. Even the smallest distractions like checking social media posts, or a quick phone call can be too long. You don’t have to leave the phone at home but stow it away on silent mode, so you don’t get distracted. Having a phone nearby can be helpful in case of an emergency, just don’t allow it to be the reason for the emergency.
Bath time. Any body of water demands serious attention and supervision. As tempting as it can be, don’t try to multitask while your child is in the bath. Be sure to sit with your child during bath time, and if you have other things to do, make it a short bath.
Don’t hesitate. It is important to note that people drown silently and quickly. Drownings do not appear as the movies portray; a drowning person rarely splashes, thrashes around, or calls for help. A child can drown in less than 2 inches of water, so even kiddie pools can be dangerous. If you think a child is being unsafe or is in harm’s way, don’t hesitate to act.
Swim lessons. While swim lessons do not make children “drown-proof,” they are a very important layer of protection that helps prevent drowning. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that swim lessons can help reduce the drowning risk for children between ages 1 and 4. By their 4th birthday, most children can learn basic water survival skills such as floating, treading water, and getting to an exit point. By the age of 5 or 6, most children can master the front crawl. If your child is still learning to swim, require life jackets. Life jackets should always be worn in and around natural bodies of water such as lakes or the ocean, even if they know how to swim. If you would like to learn more about swim lessons available in your county, contact your local extension office for more information.
Source: David Weisenhorn, Ph.D., Senior Specialist for Parenting and Child Development
American Academy of Pediatrics (2019). Swim lessons: When to start & what parents should know. Retrieved from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-play/Pages/Swim-Lessons.aspx
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Water-related Injuries (online). [cited 2019 Jul 9]. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Water-Safety/index.html
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