Swimming Safely for Kids

Not many kids would turn down an invitation for a mid-afternoon swim on a hot, sunny day. But, a fun day in the pool could turn tragic if safety is not a factor in their afternoon plans.

According to the U.S. Lifesaving Association, drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional death in the United States. It is also the second leading cause of death for people ages 5 through 44. Drowning is the leading cause of injury death reported in children under the age of 3.

Do not be distracted by the phone, a book or any other activity while supervising children near any source of water.

When talking with parents, they all agree that the key to preventing injury at the pool or the beach is constant supervision.

“My son was about 3 when we signed him up for lessons,” says Paula Macdonald, a mom from London, Ontario, Canada. “He did fine with the swim lessons at the local YMCA. They really enforced water safety.”

Macdonald says exposure to the water is the best way to ease a child’s fear, but she also agrees that kids do forget when they are having a good time to follow all the safety rules.

Just the Facts

A report that was released in November 2000 indicated that the number of childhood deaths due to drowning in Arizona nearly doubled that year. It was noted in the report that a staggering 86 percent were determined to be preventable.

The study, published by the Arizona Department of Health Services, stated that 42 children died from drowning in 2000 and 22 died the year Swimming Safely-Don't Let Summer Fun Turn Tragicprior. Fifty percent of the deaths were the result of drowning in a backyard pool. There was an astounding census that showed that all of these deaths occurred due to a lack of supervision. In 13 of the cases, there was inadequate pool fencing around the pool or no fence at all to prevent entry into the pool.

Another thing that is surprising to many parents is that young children usually don’t make noise or splash when they find themselves in trouble in the water. This startling reality is why so many children drown silently in pools and lakes each year.

The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC) recommends careful adult supervision at all times when children are near a water source. The tips below are supplied by NCIPC to help parents keep their children safe around water.

Tips to Prevent Drowning

  • Watch children at all times when they are in or around water. Do not be distracted by the phone, a book or any other activity while supervising children near any source of water.
  • Be involved with them – learn to swim.
  • Make sure young children are always accompanied by an adult and that older children have someone with them when swimming.
  • Always check the depth of the water before the child enters it.
  • Do not allow children to chew gum or consume food while swimming, diving or just playing in the water.
  • As a parent, it is advisable for you to be certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR); it could save a child’s life!
  • Make sure there is an available working telephone near the residential pools and beaches.

“For me, water safety is simply too big an issue – and I’m too lame a swimmer to tackle it alone,” says Trina Wiebe of Powell River, British Columbia. “I rely on certified swim instructors to teach my children the proper way to behave in and around the pool, as well as life-saving techniques. It puts my mind at ease to know they are getting the best instruction possible, instruction that might someday mean the difference between life and death.”

Safety First

The National Safety Council instructs lifeguards that they must be able to reach a person who is in trouble in the water within 20 seconds of spotting them. This thinking should be something that parents implement with their children every time they are around the water. Stay close and stay alert.” My girls are allowed to swim only if I am there,” says Yvette De Luca, a mom from Phoenix, Ariz. “They know not to run around the pool, no horseplay and not to get into the pool without my OK.”

De Luca enforces time outs for her children if they break the safety rules at her local pool. It is important for children to understand the seriousness of taking risks when swimming. Children tend to get excited and lose track of where they are in the pool or lake.

In open water, such as lakes and oceans, there are added risks involved. If the water is rough, visibility can be greatly reduced. Conditions in the open water can change quickly. Rapid moving water can change direction and cause strong currents making it difficult for even experienced swimmers to reach shore. With young children, it is so important to make sure that they don’t lose track of where they are or drift out too far from shore in these types of water conditions.

Teach your children what to do if they are caught in a current: Swim parallel to the shore until they are out of the current, and then continue Swimming Safely-Don't Let Summer Fun Turn Tragicto swim toward the shore. Tell them to make noise!

Pool Wise

According to a report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, each year, nationwide, about 300 children under the age of 5 drown in swimming pools. And what’s most frightening is that it’s usually in their own backyards.

Information gathered from SafeUsa offers key things to note if you currently have a swimming pool in your backyard.

  • Install a four-sided, isolation pool fence with self-closing and self-latching gates around the pool. The fence should be at least 4 feet tall.
  • Make sure there is a working telephone near the pool. Teach your children how to contact local emergency services.
  • After using pool toys, immediately remove them from the pool. Floating toys, beach balls and other toys often tempt children to lean into the pool.
  • Always supervise children when they are using the pool. Do not leave the area for any length of time.
  • Do not use air-filled swimming aids, such as water wings, as life-saving devices. They are not to take the place of parental supervision. Parents and children often have a false sense of security, which increases the risk of drowning. These aids can often deflate or become unplugged.
  • Have an action plan in place in case of an emergency.

Kids just want to have fun – it’s the parent’s responsibility to ensure that safety comes first!