Swimming is one of the healthiest, most enjoyable summer activities. To truly enjoy your family’s time around water, we encourage you to educate yourself about drowning prevention. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. among children under 14 and the leading cause of accidental death for children five and under.
Keep your family safe this summer by following our list of water safety tips:
WATER SAFETY IN THE HOME
DO NOT LEAVE YOUR CHILD ALONE AROUND WATER
Never leave a child unattended near a bathtub, sink, bucket of water or toilet. Be within an arm’s length from your child when they around water in the home. Drain all standing water immediately after use.
Do not play/talk on the phone or try to do other chores while your child is playing in or around water. Distractions are deadly!
SECURE YOUR HOME POOL
A fence and a reliable gate are the best ways to make your home pool a safe environment for your family and visitors. Safe Kids reports that in 63% of drowning cases, the victims entered the pool through an open or unlatched gate! Never assume a gate is locked! Securing a pool from unintended access is a crucial step in pool safety. Families may also consider pool alarms and rigid covers as additional layers of protection, but neither can take the place of a fence.
CPR saves lives. Performing CPR provides oxygen to the brain and other vital organs and dramatically increases a victim’s chance of survival.
WATER SAFETY OUTSIDE THE HOME
ASSIGN A WATER WATCHER
Children should never swim alone. When children are playing at pools, water parks, lakes, rivers or oceans an adult “Water Watcher” should be designated at all times. The “Water Watcher” should know how to swim, be free from distraction and be trained in rescue techniques. The “Water Watcher” should also wear a physical reminder (bracelet, pin, lanyard, rubber band or sticker) to help remind him/her and other adults that they are responsible for the safety of the children. When the “Water Watcher” needs a break, he/she must find a replacement and pass the “duty” verbally and physically to another responsible adult. Lifeguards should only be considered as a backup safeguard. No one will watch your child as closely as you – especially at pool parties where adults can be easily distracted.
DON’T LEAVE TOYS IN THE POOL
Don’t leave toys or other equipment that may attract a child in or around the pool. Train your child to never retrieve a toy out of the pool unless you are present. In addition, create a special word/verbal cue that you (and only you) must give to your children before they are allowed in the water.
SIGN UP FOR SWIM LESSONS
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children ages 1 to 4 may be less likely to drown if they have had formal swimming instruction. Finding a qualified instructor is important – research your public and private community swim programs and look for one that provides year-round development of swimming skills. Teaching kids to swim is a process, not a one-time event. Like any skill set, swimming needs to be practiced consistently to develop proper, life-saving responses and confidence.
DO NOT DEPEND ON WATER WINGS/ARM FLOATIES
Water wings are not an approved lifesaving/buoyancy device. Assuming they have such capability, puts your child in jeopardy. Water wings can slip off or pop while you are not watching your child. Your child may get out of the pool to take a break, remove the wings and then forget to put them back on. Water wings promote a false sense of security in parents and make children overly confident. Moreover, water wings hinder movement and do not promote good body position in the water. By promoting a vertical body position, water wings are creating a habit that is very hard to break once a child is learning to swim. If your child is already in lessons, water wings have the potential to undo all the proper muscle memory he/she has been taught. If you must use a flotation device, purchase a Coast Guard approved lifejacket – these are especially critical while riding on boats or playing in or around moving bodies of water.
JUST SAY NO TO “HOLDING YOUR BREATH” CONTESTS
Who can hold their breath longer? Who can swim more laps without a breath? These are everyday pool dares, but ultimately risky games. The Centers for Disease Control recently issued a report linking underwater breath holding to fatal drowning incidents. Shallow-water blackout is loss of consciousness from intentionally restraining from breathing while underwater, usually in the shallow end of the pool. Basically, swimmers can overexert themselves and pass out underwater. Children and adults should never avoid the urge to breathe while swimming.
KNOW HOW TO RECOGNIZE A WATER EMERGENCY
Drowning doesn’t look like the stereotypical splashing and yelling scenario you see on TV. A distressed/drowning swimmer may be active and splash around and yell for help. However, they will only be able to struggle at the surface of the water for 20 seconds or so before sinking for good. Other signs of distress/drowning are not as obvious and include gasping, bobbing in the water or face-down floating. This is why drowning is called a silent killer and why it can occur even when lots of people are present.
Water safety is important year-round, not just in the summer months. In the pool, at the lake, or even in your own home or backyard, water can be dangerous unless you take precautions and educate yourself and your children.
With these water safety tips in mind, we hope families spend a lot of time around the water this summer. We encourage all of our swimmers to practice their hard-earned swim skills. Remember that swimming year-round helps your child avoid regression, reinforces safety skills and is good for their health!