For children, a day spent splashing in water is perfect summer fun. For parents, water play, wading and swimming also means staying alert and keeping eyes on children at all times, so everyone can truly enjoy the fun.
Here at Bay Street Pediatrics, we are delighted to see that increased water safety awareness has led to a steady decline in drowning deaths over the last 30 years. Our providers stress that supervision, swim lessons and CPR are three interrelated ways to keep children safe around the water.
Drowning can happen in as little as 20 seconds. In the vast majority of instances, drowning in silent, as the person just slips underwater. The highest drowning rates are in children ages 1-4, and the second highest are in children 5-9 years of age.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), inadequate supervision is a factor in many childhood drowning incidents. The age of the children and their swimming ability will determine how much supervision children needs, but we urge parents and caregivers to underestimate strength, stamina and swimming ability of children and overestimate how much adult supervision is needed.
Float vests will not properly fit infants and babies under 18 months of age, and they should never be trusted to prevent drowning in small children.
For all children under 4 and any beginning swimmers, Bay Street Pediatrics recommends “touch supervision.” This means being within an arm’s reach of your child at all times, every single second. Young children are at risk of drowning in any amount of water, even a few inches in a bucket or bathtub. Children under the age of 4 must be supervised wherever water is involved.
Be sure to drain wading pools and other containers holding water when play is done. Put a lock on any larger pool to prevent accidental access. If possible, raise or remove stairs and use a hard cover over water.
In public pools, swim in appropriately designated areas, making sure lifeguards are present and adults are working as “water watchers.” Use touch supervision, keeping new swimmers and small children within arm’s reach, on pool decks and beaches.
Whenever your child is on any type of recreational boat, no matter how shallow the water, make sure they are in a certified and appropriately sized and fitted life jacket. Make sure your child stays seated and within arm’s reach at all times.
While the need for supervision does not go away, swim lessons, or water competency lessons, can add another layer of protection for your child. Swim lessons are meant to first get children comfortable in the water and then work toward basic water competencies. These include entering the water, surfacing, turning, propelling oneself for at least 25 yards, floating or treading water, and exiting the water.
When your child is between the ages of 1 and 4, we recommend lessons with parental involvement, ensuring the child has constant contact and supervision. This also reinforces to your child that they need an adult when around water. Look for a program with qualified experienced instructors, certified in CPR and first aid, requiring multiple lessons.
Unfortunately, there is no way to completely drown-proof water play and bodies of water. To add a final layer of protection, parents should become CPR certified. The outcome of any water-based incident can be improved significantly improved when first aid is administered quickly. An adult who can provide CPR should always be present when swimming or playing in water.
Keep your family safe when splashing, wading and swimming this summer. Provide constant supervision, swim lessons, and CPR.
If you have questions about water safety, please contact us at Bay Street Pediatrics. We are always happy to provide safe, healthy answers!