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Safe to Swim
Monday, August 25, 2014

Summer is in full swing and if you have kids, you’ve no doubt spent your fair share of time at the pool already. With at least another month of warm weather ahead of us, you may have a good number of sun-soaked, poolside days left.

The fun side of swimming is pretty obvious, but did you know that drowning is the leading cause of injury-related deaths in children aged 1 – 3 and the second leading cause for children under 15? Every year about 800 children drown in swimming accidents, nearly all of them preventable with just a little preparation and precaution.

What many vigilant parents don’t realize is that drowning—especially for very young children—can be quick and silent. Unlike in the movies or on TV, very young drowning victims rarely make an eye-catching splash, flail at all in the water or call for help. They usually slip in headfirst and sink rapidly to the bottom of the pool. In fact, nine out of ten children who drown are being supervised by an adult.

A child who is underwater will lose consciousness after two minutes and suffer irreversible brain damage after about four minutes. When a child falls into the water, it’s essential to move quickly and know just what to do to save them.

Know What’s Safe
Be sure that the pool, lake or river you’re swimming in is safe and that there are lifeguards on duty. If you’re swimming in the ocean, know which areas to avoid and which are safe for swimming, and why. If there aren’t lifeguards where you are, know how to get help quickly.

Remember that not all swimming helpers will keep kids from drowning. Arm floaties, tubes and rafts aren’t approved for water safety. Always make sure that your child wears a US Coast Guard-approved life preserver when they are near large bodies of water.

Always in Arms Reach
Young children near water need to be watched constantly. If you leave the water, take your child with you. Never leave them unattended—even for a minute—and only leave them with caregivers who you are absolutely confident will keep them within arms reach at all times.

Perils of Backyard Pools
If you have a pool in your backyard, consider enclosing it in a fence for safety and never let children play in or near the pool without your constant supervision.

When children are suddenly out of sight, check the pool first. Even if you have clear rules about going near the pool, small children may disregard them or simply fall in unintentionally.

Educate caregivers about pool safety and the importance of keeping children within eyesight at all times. Make a rule that children cannot play in or near the pool with babysitters or consider keeping everyone inside (with doors locked) while you’re away.

Consider investing in alarms that sound when pool gates are opened and a sonar or floating device that alerts you when something or someone enters the water.

Don’t keep toys in the pool or pool area that children will be tempted to retrieve on their own.

Learn CPR and ask that caregivers do the same. Keep a phone near the pool so that you or your caregivers can call 911 immediately.

Lessons for Lifelong Safety
By the age of about 4 years, children are ready for formal swim lessons. At that point, enroll your child in a program with certified instructors and that groups kids according to ability. Make swim lessons a regular part of your schedule, refreshing skills at least once a year.

Even after kids learn to swim it’s important to be safe near the water. If they get hurt or simply panic for any reason, the skills they have learned in swim lessons won’t be enough to keep them safe.


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