With record snowfall around the country this winter, springtime may still seem far away. Being that today is the Spring Equinox, climbing temperatures in the nation’s “sunbelt states” means it’s only a matter of weeks before people start having fun in the sun.
The onset of warmer months is a great reminder about the importance of child water safety. It might not come as a surprise that Arizona, California, Florida, and Texas consistently have the highest rates of child drownings in the U.S. Their hotter climates mean an abundance of backyard pools, as well as more frequent trips to beaches, rivers, and lakes.
While the dangers that pools and lakes pose to children are widely recognized, many don’t realize that babies and toddlers can drown in as little as 2 inches (6 cm) of water. If the water is deep enough to cover a child’s nose and mouth, it is a potential hazard.
This means that parents and caregivers of young children must be attentive around all water, including shallow play pools, bathtubs, showers, and even toilets.
Children with a Higher Risk
If your child has any specialized medical needs, we encourage parents and care providers to take an extra moment to observe all surroundings before stepping onto the pool deck or beach. A child with delays in physical or cognitive development, limited mobility, a tendency to wander from caregivers, or an inability to verbally ask for help, means additional precautions should be taken around water.
It’s up to aware and prepared parents and caregivers to be vigilant in order to compensate for this added risk.
No Substitute for Supervision
The most important safety precaution around any body of water is close supervision. Stay near to children any time they are in bathtubs, pools, spas, or near standing water. Bath seats and pool “floaties” are encouraged but should not be substituted for a watchful eye.
When swimming, a responsible adult should always be within an arm’s length to any little swimmer. Even for children who have learned to swim, stay close at all times and enjoy your fun in the sun together. Water play is a great way to spend quality time with each other – far from the distractions of technology and electronics. Here are some fun and therapeutic water games to try with your children.
Proper Swimming Instruction
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends swimming lessons for children four years and older.
While age four may be an ideal age to learn to swim, not all children will be ready. Certain diagnoses or physical challenges may lead to a much longer road to swimming proficiency. And remember, even strong swimmers can struggle given the wrong combination of circumstances, such as an injury or other medical complications.
Laws related to residential pool fences vary, depending on where you live. If you’re a pool owner, or are considering a pool, research the laws in your area.
Pool fences are generally recommended to be at least four feet high, with either netting or vertical bars that are difficult to climb. The gate should have a lock, be self-latching, and self-closing. Make sure the fence completely blocks access to the pool from every exit of the home, including pet doors.
Additional precautions may include pool nets or pool alarms. Above-ground pools should be securely covered, with the pool ladder removed when it’s not in use. Should you lose sight of your child, even for a moment, check in the water or pool before any other place.
Know CPR and Rescue Techniques
Even with proper prevention methods in place, physical safeties should not substitute knowledge and certification in CPR. All parents, professional caregivers, and even babysitters should know water rescue techniques and be CPR certified. As a good rule of thumb, pool owners should also be certified, whether or not there are children living in the home.
Proper CPR, complete with chest compressions, keeps blood flowing to the brain to help prevent brain damage or fatality due to lack of oxygen. In the event of cardiac arrest, it’s essential to keep compressions going until medical professionals arrive to take over.
Pledge to Prevent Drownings
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has launched the Pool Safely public service campaign to educate parents and caregivers about the importance of water safety. More than 75,000 people have signed the online pledge to take basic precautions to ensure water safety. Those who sign the pledge receive a complimentary tip card for pool safety.
Check your local hospitals’ calendar of events for low-cost CPR courses available to the public. Your CPR certification is an excellent investment in the future well-being of the children you love.