About 10 people die from unintentional drowning on a typical day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. On average, two of the victims are children 14 years old and younger.
Small children are especially vulnerable to drowning, especially around pools and spas. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, children younger than 5 represent nearly 75 percent of pool and spa deaths.
To improve water safety for children, the Stew Leonard III Children’s Charities sponsors free or low-cost swimming lessons for children in New York and Connecticut. The organization was founded in 1990 after Kim and Stew Leonard Jr. lost their 21-month-old son in a drowning accident. For the past 24 years, the charity has raised funds and devoted resources to educating families on the importance of safety around water and teaching children simple water-safety rules to make summertime fun-and injury-free.
Swimming and pool play are popular warm-weather activities for children and adults alike, and it is up to the adults to make water safety a priority for everyone. Here are five tips to help your kids avoid injury at pools, lakes and the ocean this year:
1. Supervise your children.
Never leave a child unattended at a pool, spa, lake or beach, and closely watch children at all times. Even if the beach or pool has a lifeguard, be sure to actively supervise your children. They can easily get lost or venture too deep into the water. Always stay within arm’s reach of youngsters, and avoid distractions, such as alcohol or even reading a book, when supervising children around water.
2. Establish safety rules.
If you have a pool in your yard or apartment complex, create a list of rules for using it, and post the list where it can be seen clearly. Teach your children to follow the rules and to always ask permission before going near the water. Help your children create a buddy system and instruct them to never swim alone or without adult supervision.
Children should also learn to never dive headfirst from the side of the pool or run around the deck – two activities that can cause serious injuries. Make sure kids never engage in rough play around a pool. Also instruct kids to keep the area around the pool clear of toys or other gear and equipment to avoid tripping hazards. Set boundaries for your children on how far they are allowed to go in a pool, lake or ocean.
3. Learn basic first-responder skills.
If your child or other swimmers get into trouble in the water, know how to respond. Take advantage of Red Cross pool-safety, water-safety, first-aid and CPR/AED courses.
At a pool, scout out the area and locate the lifesaving equipment in case you need to reach it quickly. At a lake or ocean, set up your beach camp near a lifeguard station. Keep a first-aid kit handy for bumps, bruises and scrapes, and know when to call 911 for help.
4. Teach your children to swim.
Knowing how to swim reduces the risk of drowning, especially among children ages 1 to 4. Age-appropriate swimming lessons will help keep your children safe, and as a bonus, enhance their fun around water.
Even if your children are good swimmers, it is important to supervise them closely when they are in the water. Provide U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets for younger and inexperienced swimmers.
5. Keep your pool safe.
If you have a pool on your premises, erect a four-sided fence that separates the pool from the house. Fencing should be at least 4 feet high and resistant to climbing. There should be no more than 4 inches between the vertical portions of the fence. The gate should be self-latching.
If you have an above-ground pool, remove access ladders and secure the safety cover when the pool is not in use. Pool plumbing can also be a hazard. Make sure your pool complies with safety standards for drains, and instruct your children to stay away from all drains and suction fittings when they get into pools.
Summer fun and safety do go hand-in-hand, especially around pools, lakes and oceans. A few simple steps and watchful supervision will keep your children safe and help your family make happy memories on vacations and throughout the hot-weather months.