Playing in the family pool, at the community water park, during school PE classes or at the lake offers many ways to enjoy time with family and friends. Sadly, thousands of children die or are injured each year in preventable swimming accidents. Following some basic rules and guidelines for swimming safety will help keep your child safe in the water.
Pool Safety Features
Most children between the ages of 1 and 14 who drown do so in a home swimming pool, according to Safe Kids USA. Public and private pools should be fenced in to keep children out when adults are not around. This is usually the law in incorporated areas. Children can drown even in covered pools or pools with alarm systems. When youngsters walk on top of pool covers, they can fall through. They may be able to raise one part of the cover and then not be able to get out of the water once they are in it. Alarms may bring adults to the scene, but because of the rapidity with which a child can drown or lose consciousness while deprived of oxygen, even alarms should be supplemented with fencing and vigilance when children are near.
Stay Alert/Don’t Multi-Task
Approximately 90 percent of child drownings occurred when a parent claimed to be supervising the child or children, according to Smart Kids. Do not multi-task during children’s swimming times. Talking on the phone, grilling, tanning or reading all take time away from your supervision of children, who can die or become permanently disabled in a matter of minutes if without oxygen.
Lightning Kills (In or Out of Water)
Even if the skies are clear, check the weather forecast before letting kids in the water. If the prediction is clear when you leave the house, conditions may have changed by the time you drive up to the lake or make it to the pool in a neighboring town. Do not allow your child to continue swimming during bad weather, especially electrical storms.
Personal flotation devices, including life vests, water wings, rafts and preservers, should be within easy reach of swimmers and non-swimmers alike, who can assist when a child is in distress. “Water wings,” which are flotation devices used on children’s arms, can actually cause drownings if the child’s arms become trapped behind her, with the inflatables pushing and keeping her head under water.
Reach, Throw, Row, Go
While your first reaction when you see a struggling swimmer may be to jump into the water to save him, you may put yourself at risk and diminish your role as a rescuer. When possible, first try to pull the child out of the water with your hand, pole or another object. If you can’t do this, try to throw a rope or flotation device to the struggling swimmer to help him stay afloat while you complete the rescue. Especially in open water, try to reach a struggling swimmer with a boat, raft or jet ski before you go into the water alone. Only if there is no other way to reach a struggling swimmer should you attempt to make a rescue yourself.
Drains are Dangerous!
Each year across the country, children drown or become disemboweled when they come too close to the suction of pool drains. Make sure your drains have the latest anti-entrapment covers. If your child is swimming at a pool away from home, do not allow her in the pool until the two of you have located all pool drains so she can avoid them.
Many municipalities offer affordable swimming lessons for children. If you want to cover two child-care needs at once, call a local pool and hire a lifeguard as a babysitter when you need to go out. Many teens would love the chance to earn some extra cash during the summer. You might be able to split the cost of the sitter with other parents by paying the teen a bit more for group lessons. The guard should have Water Safety Instructor certification and be able to teach beginner swimming skills.