The statistics on childhood drowning are frightening.*
- Since 1999 an average of 815 children under the age of 14 have died from drowning annually.
- In the past few years more than 5,000 children have experienced non-fatal drowning injuries, most often neurological impairment.
- Children under five years of age account for 80% of submersion injuries.
- Swimming pools are the most common locations for drowning fatalities among children ages one through four.
- In 90% of childhood drownings, an adult was supervising the child.
- 66% of children drown between May and August, most often on weekends.
It only takes a few minutes for a child to slip below the water level and drown, or suffer brain injury caused by a lack of oxygen.
So, what can you do about it? As parents, caregivers, babysitters and others who oversee the activities of children in and near water, it falls on us to protect children from the tragedies about which we read each summer.
Here are some tips to keep kids safe in the water.
Recognize the dangers of water.
Children don’t always drown in swimming pools, hot tubs or at the beach. Small children can drown in the bathtub, in a toilet or even in a bucket of water in which they fall head first. Infants and toddlers often lack the body strength to lift themselves out of seemingly harmless amounts of water.
Teach your children to swim.
This sounds so obvious, but many parents and guardians of children assume danger is prevented as long as adults are watching. However, learning to swim lowers the risk of drowning, and it’s never too early to teach a child to swim.
Enroll your child in a water safety course. The American Red Cross® offers training starting with infants, who take to water easily and can be taught simple water safety before they can even speak.
Keep a close watch on pool and beach activity.
Even if there’s a life guard on duty, you’re the primary guardian. Never take your eyes off a child in the water – even for a few minutes. If you’re having a family get-together, assign designated watchers for pools and spas to keep a happy occasion happy.
Fence in pools, spas and hot tubs.
Fences around pools should be at least four feet in height with no more than four inch spaces between fence slats.** Avoid chain link fences. Children can climb chain link fences easily. Lock all gates that allow pool and spa access. Hot tubs and outdoor spas should have locked covers to prevent tragedies, regardless of the season.
Add drain hole covers to prevent small arms, legs and long hair from getting sucked into a pool drain and trapping a child beneath the water.
Floating pool alarms sound an alert whenever pool or spa water is jostled. You may be running to get the dog out of the pool a few times a day, but your children will be safer.
Add alarms to pool gates, sliding doors and other exits around the pool to prevent a child from taking a dip in the pool when unsupervised.
Cover spas and pools with rigid, protective barriers that lock to prevent unauthorized access to an “attractive nuisance” – the back yard swimming pool or hot tub.
Remove swimming pool toys.
These are simply temptations for children to go for a swim when you’re not around. Lock up pool toys until you’re available to watch for safe pool activity.
Scrutinize the neighborhood.
Your backyard oasis may be secure but the next door neighbor’s pool may not be, and a young child or teen may access the neighbor’s pool when your pool is locked down for safety.
Ask neighbors to secure their pools, and warn children to stay away from swimming pools, wading pools, spas and even deep buckets of water. Children can drown in water anywhere unless you take steps to protect them.
Public swimming areas.
Only swim in areas where lifeguards are on duty. Never swim in areas designated as unsafe by authorities. Those DANGER signs are there for a reason.
Even if your child can swim, insist that she wear a flotation device to keep her head above water. You can turn away for a minute as a child disappears below the water’s surface. It doesn’t take long to turn a happy family outing into a family tragedy.
Make sure the flotation device is safety approved. Water wings, inner tubes and foam “noodles” aren’t designed to prevent drowning, so purchase an approved flotation device for each of your children.
When boating, kayaking or just rafting down the river, wear a flotation device to set a good example. If you respect the dangers of water, your children will, too. Every person on the boat should wear a flotation device certified by the U.S. Coast Guard® or the American Red Cross.
The American Red Cross offers classes in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, or CPR. Take a course and keep updated by taking a water safety course each year.
Keep emergency equipment readily available.
Keep a rope, a safety ring and a telephone close at hand, poolside or at the beach. You never know when you’ll need them, and when you do, you’ll be glad you came prepared.
As a parent or caregiver, you’re in the best position to prevent a beautiful summer day from turning into a tragedy. Stay alert, assume danger is everywhere and keep an eye peeled when the kids dive in.
The information contained herein may not represent the views and opinions of Nevada State Bank or its affiliates. It is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice.
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