Temperatures are rising, so it’s time to play in the water. Whether your family is splashing in an inflatable wading pool, swimming in a large public pool, or enjoying lake water, keeping your children safe is the most important part of water play.
Here at New Canaan Pediatrics, we are happy that increased water safety awareness has led to a steady decline in drowning deaths over the last 30 years. Our providers stress that supervision, swim lessons and CPR are three interrelated ways to keep children safe around the water.
Drowning can happen in as little as 20 seconds, and unlike in TV and movies, drowning is silent, as the person just slips underwater. The highest drowning rates are in children ages 1-4, and the second highest are in children 5-9 years of age.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reports that inadequate supervision factors into many childhood drowning incidents. The age of the children and their swimming ability will determine how much supervision your child needs, but we urge parents and caregivers to always err on the side of caution.
Never overestimate the strength, stamina or swimming ability of your children. Float vests will not properly fit infants and babies under 18 months of age, and they should never be trusted to prevent drowning in small children.
For all children under 4 and any beginning swimmers, we recommend “touch supervision.” This means being within an arm’s reach of your child at all times, every single second. Remember that young children are at risk of drowning with any and all amounts of water, even a few inches in a bucket or bathtub. Children under the age of 4 must be supervised wherever water is involved.
Drain wading pools and other containers holding water when play is done. Put a lock on any larger pool to prevent accidental access. If possible, raise or remove stairs and use a hard cover over water.
In public pools, swim in appropriately designated areas, making sure lifeguards are present and adults are working as “water watchers.” Use touch supervision, keeping new swimmers and small children within arm’s reach, on pool decks and beaches.
Whenever your child is on any type of recreational boat, no matter how shallow the water, make sure they are in a certified and appropriately sized and fitted life jacket. Make sure your child stays seated and within arm’s reach at all times.
While the need for supervision never goes away, swim lessons, or water competency lessons, add another layer of protection for your child. The goal of swim lessons is to get children familiar and comfortable in the water and then work toward basic water competencies. These include entering the water, surfacing, turning, propelling oneself for at least 25 yards, floating or treading water, and exiting the water.
When your child is between the ages of 1 and 4, we recommend lessons with parental involvement, ensuring the child has constant contact and supervision, reinforcing the child’s need for an adult when around water. Look for qualified experienced instructors, certified in CPR and first aid, that require multiple lessons.
Unfortunately, there is no way to completely drown-proof water play and bodies of water. A final layer of protection parents should add is to become CPR certified. The outcomes of any water-based incident are significantly improved the quicker first aid is rendered. Make sure there is always an adult present who can provide CPR when engaging in swimming or water play.
While splashing, wading and swimming are cooling, entertaining and just plain fun, supervision, swim lessons, and CPR are three strong layers of protection that will help your family stay safe in the water.
If you have questions about water safety, please contact us at New Canaan Pediatrics. We are always happy to provide safe, healthy answers!