Summer is a time when families stream to pools, parks, beaches and lakes to cool down and enjoy the water. Playing in the water is a fun and happy experience, but drowning or near-drowning can occur in moments. Last year in California, drowning accidents were the cause of death for more than 360 people; 77 of these victims were younger than 13 years of age. Drowning is the leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 5 and 24 and the second cause of death for children under 5 years. And sadly, most drownings happen in home swimming pools. The frightening reality is that within seconds a child may slip into the water, swallow large amounts of water, and slip into unconsciousness. A child may lose permanent brain function within 2-4 minutes if s/he remains under the water. Often life ceases within four minutes or a drowning victim is left with permanent brain damage.
But swimming and water activities are a wonderful form of recreation and exercise for children, and should be encouraged. So, to to ensure the safety of your children, practice key preventative tactics around water, whether it is a bathtub, hot tub, swimming pool, pond, lake, or ocean:
· Stay within arms reach of your child if your child is not able to swim
· Have your child take swim lessons to become a competent swimmer
· Teach your child to respect water; never turn your back on the waves
· Teach your child to obey and read the rules at the pool, water park, beach, etc
· Get out of the water when tired or when the water gets too rough
· Swim in sight of the lifeguard and in designated swim areas
· Go down the slide feet first and face up
· Wear protective footwear if the ground is rough, rocky or slippery
· Never let your children swim alone
· Don’t swim out too far or too deep
· Don’t swim in the dark
· Do not allow them to run, push or jump on each other
· Don’t dive in areas that aren’t designated for diving
· Don’t swim or play in dark or murky water because you can’t see the bottom and obstructed debris or plant material may endanger your child
· Do not swim or boat in a storm. Water and electricity are a dangerous combination
· Do not swim close to rocks or piers. If the water becomes rough you can be thrown against them.
· Don’t chew gum or eat while swimming. You could choke.
· Get out of the water if you feel a cramp. Wait until your muscles relax before returning to water.
· Learn how to swim yourself
· Become certified in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation)
· Keep your eyes on your children at all times
· Keep a phone near you in case you need to dial 911
§ Do not depend on lifeguards to be watch your child every moment because they have many people to watch over
§ An adult who can swim must always remain on the pool deck or shore watching the child regardless of how strong a swimmer a child is
§ Inflatable devices and other types of flotation devices do not guarantee safety
§ Children should not play in deep water unless they have demonstrated that they have the endurance to tread water, stay afloat, and swim for an extended period
§ When swimming at the beach, check with the lifeguards to determine the water conditions
It is always smart to go to a pool, lake or beach where lifeguards are on duty. Lifeguards greatly improve safety; they receive training in accident prevention, CPR and AED utilization, and basic first aid. However, do not give them full responsibility for your child’s life, they have dozens of people to keep their eye on and if they are occupied by another emergency your child is further at risk.
While water wings and other inflatable devices can allow for a wonderful experience for a non-swimmer, they absolutely will not keep a child from drowning. Inflatable devices often lose air due to small holes and prolonged water and sun exposure. A child’s face can easily go below the surface if the device is not properly inflated. Remember, these are not life-saving devices.
Even life jackets provide no guarantees. A child may lose his/her balance or get knocked over easily when wearing a bulky life jacket. Startled and submerged, a child may gulp in water.
You can prevent water accidents when you follow these safety guidelines. To help you keep your children safe in and around water, Abilities United Aquatic Services, located at 3864 Middlefield Road in Palo Alto 650-494-1480, offers
· nanny safety-course
· children’s swim lessons
· adult swim lessons (both group (1:8) and individual sessions to match your schedule)
· two-hour community water safety course (July 16, 6:00-8:00pm; August 27, 6:00-8:00pm)
Jump in the water with your child this summer! You’ll have a safe and happy time if you are ready for action should you need to take it.
Renate Henry Olaisen, Director of Abilities United Aquatic Services, is certified with the American Red Cross and lectures frequently on water safety to small groups, schools and workplaces. In addition, Renate teaches aquatic certification courses at Abilities United.
Reprinted with permission from Parenting on the Peninsula