Summer Water Safety

By Natalia Darling, PA-C
After surviving a long winter and an erratic spring, we are finally fast approaching the summer months-. For children, this means endless days of warm weather, playing outside, summer camp, vacations to the beach, and ice cream trucks. For parents and pediatricians, it is the time to think about and focus on water safety.  
From May- September, it is almost guaranteed that your child will spend some amount of time near a body of water- whether it be a pool, the ocean, a water park, a river or lake, etc.  It is no coincidence that most drownings tend to occur on weekends during the May- September months when warm summer weather is upon us.  Paying particular attention to water safety around this time is of paramount importance. Drowning is the sixth leading cause of accidental death for people of all ages, and the second leading cause of death for children ages 1-14 years old, second only to motor vehicle collisions.  It’s important to realize and remember that the classic image presented by Hollywood of a victim helplessly gasping and flailing their arms in the shallow end of a pool is rarely seen with drowning victims; more commonly a drowning occurs quickly and quietly, and without any warning, a victim is found motionless in a pool. When a drowning victim is found,  there is often a  time lapse until a medical professional is on the scene to help. We urge all parents and caregivers to enroll in a class that teaches CPR and water safety techniques prior to the time any of your children will be exposed to water. There are many steps parents and caregivers can take this summer to ensure safety and fun while spending time in the water.  
Water Safety: Toddlers should never be left alone near bathrooms or buckets of water without immediate supervision.   Never leave children alone in or near water, even for a moment.  Children under age 5 and less experienced swimmers should have an adult within arm’s distance to provide in pool touch supervision. Never swim alone, even if you consider yourself or your child to be a “good swimmer”.  Caregivers should take turns acting as a water watcher, monitoring the pool and all children in and surrounding it- this person should be constantly paying attention, undistracted and not involved in any other activities aside from supervising and watching children even if a lifeguard is present.
Pool Safety: Residential pools should have at least a four-foot high fence surrounding the pool without openings, holes or gaps that a child or toddler could wiggle through.  This fence should completely surround the pool and separate the pool area from both the yard and the house, with gates that open away from the pool rather than towards it. Put open and close door chimes on your rear entrances from your home Keep rescue equipment and have a phone accessible near the pool. Children at and older than age 1 may have a lower risk of drowning if enrolled in swimming lessons.  Floaties should not act as a substitute for life jackets.  Do not swim in pools or spas with broken or missing drain covers and ensure that pool and spa drains are compliant with the Pool and Spa safety act and are fitted with anti-entrapment drain covers and systems.  If a child is missing, the first place to look is in the pool or spa.
Boating Safety: Children should wear life jackets at all times when on boats or on docks, as should adults to set a good example.  Make sure the jacket is the correct fit for your child.  Do not use inflatable toys, rafts or air mattresses as a replacement for a life jacket or water floatation device.  Discuss with your older children and adolescents the dangers of being in a boat if the driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Open Water Swimming: A lifeguard should be on duty whenever your child is near or swimming in open water, with younger children being more closely supervised by caregivers. Ensure when you arrive at a pool/beach you and your children know where the closest lifeguard is located.  Make rules with children that they should never dive head first into open water unless permitted by an adult who knows the depth and has checked for hidden underwater objects. Do not let your child swim in canals, fast-moving water, or when the conditions aren’t right.  Teach your children about rip currents, and to swimming parallel to the shore to escape them.