We all know kids love stepping into their swim clothes and crashing into the refreshing waters of a swimming pool on a hot day. Parents love an afternoon filled with ice cold lemonade, easy entertainment and fun in the sun. But turning your head for even a minute can result in what was a fun-filled summer day turning into a life-long nightmare. But with a few easy precautions, safety and fun can go hand in hand.
Lois Lee, M.C., M.P.H. emergency-medicine specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital, reports that young children can drown silently in as little as 25 seconds, even in a baby pool or the shallow-end. In general, an average of 5,000 children are hospitalized due to unintentional drowning each year. Campaign leader for Pool Safety with the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Ellyn Pollack, shares that “drowning is the leading cause of death for 1 to 4-year olds, and every death is preventable. With astounding numbers such as these, swimming safety should be at the forefront of our attention, especially if you have toddlers and young children in the house.
The CDC found that “most young children who drowned in pools were last seen in the home, had been out of sight less than five minutes, and were in the care of one or both parents at home at the time.” Nothing is foolproof or guaranteed when it comes to providing protection for young children around a pool, that is why Mark Ross, spokesman for the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that “pool owners provide layers of protection.”
The bottom line: pools are great, safety is key. Below are eleven ways to keep your children safe and secure and ensure an enjoyable dip in the pool!
1. Adult Supervision
Attentive and close adult supervision during time in the water should be first and foremost, and constant. The safest way to prevent accidents is to never leave your children alone, and keep them within arm’s reach. The American Academy of Pediatrics refers to this method of safety as “touch supervision,” being close enough to reach out and touch your child at all times.
Once your child has mastered floating on their back, and are able to swim substantial distances, they will not need you within “touching distance” at all times. But regardless of age, children should always be watched. They are still susceptible to growing tired, getting stuck underwater, or panicking.
- Be mindful of others watching your children when in the water. Unless you are completely confident that a babysitter or friend will watch your children constantly, do not let them go swimming.
2. Pools should be fenced in
Residential swimming pools should be surrounded by a fence at least 4 feet tall. The fence should be four-sided, encompassing the entire pool, be self-closing, and self-latching. It should also not be accessible from the home. Most accidents occur when a child wanders from the house and falls into the pool. Therefore, you do not want any openings in the fence, or space beneath to crawl under.
The AAP recommends fencing in inflatable and plastic pools as well. Most parents assume that a child could stand up and get out of very shallow water. If they fall and get a mouth full of water, however, they can panic and drown within minutes.
3. Keep your child’s head above water
The inhalation of water while splashing and swimming can lead to secondary drowning. While rare, it is an extremely serious and fatal condition. Keep your child’s head above water at all times, limit underwater submersions, and encourage your children to keep their mouths closed.
4. Ditch the floaties!
Consistently ranked as one of the worst pool toys, parents put far too much faith in arm floaties. They were created as an added safety precaution for non-swimmers to start experiencing the water but are not intended to be a life preserver (or a babysitter!). Floaties have been shown time and time again that they give young children a false sense of security. Once the floaties are off, children are more likely to jump in with false confidence thinking they can swim.
If you are in the water with your child, the assistance of inner tubes, floatation devices and floaties are permissible, but they should never be substituted for life vests.
According to the AAP, U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets should always be used on small children and non-swimmers when they are in or near water. They also encourage parents to say no to mermaid fins. While they appear to be fun, decorative and harmless, they can tap your child’s legs, and prevent them from reaching the surface for air.
5. Enroll your child in swimming classes while you take CPR classes
Reduce the risk of your child drowning by 88%. Sign your child up for age-appropriate swimming lessons. The AAP encourages children to begin swimming lessons as young as 1 years of age to become water competent. Basic water competency skills include the ability to enter the water, surface, float, turn around, move at least 25 yards, and exit the water.
If your child demonstrates developmental readiness, and physical strength and coordination, they are suitable for lessons. It is best for children to take lessons every year in order to refresh their skills and reinforce safety precautions. During times of panic, it is imperative that those skills are top of mind
- Prepare for moments of crisis. Adults should also learn CPR and familiarize themselves with the signs of drowning in children.
6. Teach your children water rules
Teach your children the importance of following water rules. Consider using a rhyme and repeating the rules before an afternoon in the sun.
1. No running around the pool
2. No diving in the shallow end
3. No pushing others into the water
4. No pulling other kids under the water
5. No swimming without a life jacket (for young children)
6. No swimming without adult supervision
When in a public setting, be sure to report other children to a lifeguard if they are acting in an unsafe manner.
7. Utilize the buddy system
For an added layer of protection, utilize the buddy system, assigning older children to keep an eye on young children. This does not replace adult supervision, but can supplement your surveillance.
8. Inspect your pool regularly
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that pools be inspected at least once a year by a licensed pool inspector. This will ensure that drain covers, filters and vacuums are functioning properly, and lights in the pool do not pose the danger of electric shock.
9. Invest in rescue gear
In case of emergency, rescue gear should always be kept on hand near the pool area. Items like a shepherd’s hook and life preserver are a necessity. Always bring your cell phone with you as well when spending time in the water
10. Install protective measures
Pool alarms are a simple, protective measures that can provide peace of mind and safety, alerting you to possible dangers. These alarms detect waves or movement in the water warning you if your child may have fallen in.
11. Prevent the spread of germs
We have all heard the phrase, “chlorine kills germs.” This, however, is not entirely true. The CDC reports that recreational water illnesses have been steadily increasing over the past 20 years. These diseases cause a variety of symptoms including diarrhea and stomach issues, and can be contracted by swimming in contaminated pools, lakes, hot tubs, water parks and beaches.
Help to prevent the spread of germs and illness by utilizing swim diapers for children that are not yet potty trained. Make sure to check the diaper regularly to ensure that it is clean. For those that are potty-trained, take them to the restroom consistently to prevent them from using the bathroom in the water.
Pool test strips can be bought at pool or hardware stores to check the chlorine and pH levels of your pool. According to the CDC, a chlorine level of 1-3mg/L and pH level of 7.2-7.8 maximizes germ-killing.
This popular summer and vacation past-time does not have to be wrought with anxiety and fear for parents and caregivers. Minimize your family’s risk of accident and maximize fun in the water. Be vigilant in safety measures and precautions.
Cheers to having safe fun in the sun!