Summer vacation is finally here, and swimming pools are beacons of fun for summer adventurers. But unfortunately, mixing kids with water can also result in tragedy.
Drowning is the leading cause of death of children ages 1 to 4, with the majority occurring in home swimming pools, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Drowning can take just a minute, just turning your back and a child enters the water and she can become incapacitated quickly,” said Heather Trnka, injury prevention coordinator at Akron Children’s Hospital. “It is nothing like the movies; it is silent. Kids are not screaming or splashing around yelling for help. Children in busy pools in the summertime have drowned right next to unassuming swimmers.”
The good news is drowning is one of the most preventable causes of death and can be avoided by taking proper precautions. The following tips will help keep your little ones safe during an afternoon of fun and splashing at the pool:
- Never leave a child near a pool unattended even for a moment. It’s important to always supervise children while they’re in and near the water.
- Practice “touch” supervision with children younger than 5 years. This means that an adult is within an arm’s length of the child at all times.
- Teach your child to always swim with a partner.
- Enclose your pool in a safety fence at least 4 feet high with slats no more than 4 inches apart. The fence should completely separate the pool from the house and play area in the yard. The fence gate must have a childproof latch. Don’t leave furniture nearby as it could help a child climb over the fence.
- Learn CPR and post CPR instructions in the pool area. Have a phone nearby so you can call 9-1-1 in an emergency.
- Do not use air-filled swimming aids, such as “water wings,” as a substitute for adult supervision.
- Keep toys away from the pool when it is not in use as they can attract young children into the area.
- Never allow children to dive into an above-ground pool, and check the water depth before allowing them to dive into an in-ground pool. Keep clear of the area near a diving board.
- Remove all ladders from an above-ground pool when not in use.
- Establish pool rules and post them near your pool. Don’t allow running or horseplay around the pool.
- Close supervision is just as important for inflatable and portable pools. A child can drown in just an inch of water. Kiddie pools should be emptied and stored out of reach when not in use.
- From a young age, encourage children to always swim with a buddy.
- When there are several adults present use the Water Watcher strategy. This means one particular adult is the Water Watcher for a certain period of time (for example 15 minutes) to prevent lapses in supervision.
In addition, swimming lessons are a great idea, and Trnka recommends classes for all children over the age of 1. However, never assume swimming lessons make your child “drown proof.”
“Supervision and other layers of protection are necessary even for children who have learned swimming skills,” she said. “Nothing is a replacement for adult supervision.”