Utah’s spring weather is more of a tease than anything, but eventually the summer will come and it will be swim season again.
Whether your family owns a pool, or likes to party at the lake or nearby stream, water safety is of huge importance, especially to families with young children.
Playing in the water can be a wonderful family bonding experience and a great way to cool off from the oppressive summer heat. But, it does mean danger for kids, especially those under 4 years of age. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 800 children die by drowning each year. Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death for kids between 1 and 3-years-old, and the second leading cause of death for kids under age 15. Still, many parents continue on thinking that “it won’t happen to my kid.”
Pack and Prepare
Be aware of the water dangers in your area and on family trips.
Although it’s fun to focus on all the fun toys and gadgets you get to bring along, or even the cute swimsuits and summer clothing, don’t forget that safety should always come first. Here are some things to keep on-hand in your swim bag:
- Flotation devices or life vests approved by the Coast Guard (with between-the-leg straps and head support for children under 5 years old)
- Sunblock with at least 15 SPF
- Enough drinking water to avoid dehydration
- Absorbent pool towels to get everyone warm and dry as needed
- Proper footwear for walking into and out of various bodies of water
Pool towels are an important thing to note, especially since young children and toddlers are more vulnerable to hypothermia. If you notice your toddler or young child starting to shiver, or he/she changes in coloring, leave the water immediately.
Most parents may not realize that devices like “water wings” and “puddle jumpers” are not enough to protect young children from drowning. Keep a close eye on all your children near the water, and do “touch supervision,” also known as staying within arm’s reach, with those under the age of 3.
Swim Lessons: Good, but not foolproof
Don’t assume that if your child knows how to swim that they aren’t at risk, either. Although swim lessons are a good investment, it’s not something that should make you less wary or more prone to water safety in the future. According to the latest guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics, children may benefit from swim lessons, but certain things should be taken into account, including the child’s emotional and physical readiness, as well as the frequency of their exposure to water. Don’t let some swim lessons make you less vigilant about your children around water–keep a close eye on them!
If you’re swimming in a public place, it’s good to ensure that a trained lifeguard is on duty, but don’t rely solely on one. You yourself can protect your children not only by watching them, but also by learning CPR.
Most states have strict codes in place for regular in-ground pools. Currently the Consumer Product Safety Commission lists the following requirements for pool safety:
- A surrounding fence that is at least 4 feet high with no foot or handrails
- Fence slats should be less than 4 inches apart, with no opening larger than 1 3/4 inches for chain link
- Gates should be self-closing and self-latching and out of reach for children
The CPSC also states that pool covers and alarms haven’t proven effective in preventing drownings of very young children, so an up-to-code fence is the best protection, along with watching your children closely.
Recently an influx of above-ground pools that are inexpensive have become a hazard, because they don’t require many of the codes that a permanent pool would. These pools can be especially dangerous since it’s possible to walk by and not see a young child inside.