Make no mistake: Drowning is a threat to children
everywhere. Nationwide, it’s the number-one cause of accidental death in kids ages 1 to 4 and the second-most-common cause of injury-related death in children ages 1 to 14.
Every year upwards of 600 children under age 15 die from drowning, and seven times that many get treated in emergency rooms for nonfatal submersion injuries.
To avoid any of such incidents when out with you kids for a swim, below are seven life-saving water safety rules every parent needs to know.
Rule #1: Never Take Your Eyes Off Your Child in The Pool:
Sadly, young children can drown silently in as little as 25 seconds, even in the shallow end or in a baby pool. Kids who are not yet experienced swimmers need constant touch supervision when they’re playing in or near a pool or at the beach. That means you (or another responsible adult) should stay in the water with your child at all times, within touching distance, giving him 100 percent of your attention.
Rule #2: Ignore Your Phone: Make a pact with yourself: When you’re at the pool or the beach or the lake, silence your phone and stow it out of reach in your bag so you’re not tempted to use it. If you hear a text message come in and turn to your phone for five seconds, that’s long enough for a child to be submerged.
So, avoid any distractions…
Rule #3: Don’t Rely On Water Wings: If your little one is a non-swimmer, it’s okay to let her use floatie toys, but only if you’re right there next to her in the water. And just say no to toy mermaid fins; they can trap your child’s legs, preventing her from easily kicking her way to the surface from beneath the water. The only safe flotation device is a well-fitting Coast Guard–approved life jacket, and it’s not a bad idea to have a weak swimmer wear one while she’s in or around the water (though, of course, you still need to be with her too).
Rule #4: Sign Up Your Child For Swimming Lessons: What’s the right age to get started? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all children ages 4 and older take swimming lessons. But don’t let lessons give you a false sense of security: Regardless of ability, all toddlers and preschoolers need a caregiver at their side in the pool.
Rule #5: Make Older Kids Buddy Up: As an extra layer of protection, experts recommend that kids follow the buddy system. Pair your child with a friend or a sibling, and explain that each kid is responsible for knowing where her buddy is at all times. But don’t forget that a pal doesn’t replace adult supervision; the system serves as a supplement.
Rule #6: When There’s A Crowd, Put A Parent On Lifeguard Duty: Or better yet, hire help. At a party or a gathering, it’s almost guaranteed that parents will get distracted and look away from the pool at some point. A simple backup to make sure that everyone’s safe: In addition to keeping track of your own kids, pay a pro or designate an adult “water watcher” and take turns every 15 minutes.
Rule #7: Teach Your Child The Rules: For easy memorizing, stick to these five: no running, no diving in the shallow end, no pushing people in, no pulling other kids under the water, and no swimming without adult supervision—ever. And remember: Children aren’t the only ones who shouldn’t swim alone; it’s not particularly safe for adults to swim solo either, says Dr. Callahan.
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