For many, summer ushers in sunny afternoons spent lounging by pools, floating lazy rivers, and taking the boat out for waterskiing, fishing, and all things wet and wonderful in Florida. And, whether by a backyard kiddie pool or a local pond, children are particularly enamored, making water safety a foremost concern for parents.
Drowning is one of the leading causes of death in children, particularly toddlers and teenagers. While young children are most likely to drown in bathtubs and swimming pools, older children have a greater incidence of drowning-related injury and death in lakes and rivers. Regardless, the same safety measures can be applied to all scenarios to prevent needless tragedy.
Simple supervision is the single best way to prevent a drowning incident. Unplanned, unsupervised access to water is the biggest drowning threat, particularly for toddlers, with whom it accounts for 69% of all drownings. Never leave children unattended around any body of water – be it a wading pool (very young children can drown in less than two inches of water) or the ocean. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends providing constant “touch supervision” (i.e., within arm’s reach), which means staying in the water with your child and providing undivided attention – no phones, alcohol, or other distractions – even if they are solid swimmers. During parties near pools or lakes, designate a water monitor and take turns sharing the responsibility.
Speaking of swimming, the ageless adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” couldn’t be more applicable to children and water. Swimming lessons are the second most important tool in your water safety arsenal. Very young children can be taught water survival skills – like how to flip onto their backs and float – while older kids can learn basic strokes and safety skills that can literally mean the difference between life and death.
Finally, provide safety precautions. Install fencing at least four feet high around pools, hot tubs, and other standing water at home – this includes inflatable pools and spas, temporary kiddie pools, and built-in structures. For permanent pools, install a self-closing and -latching gate, too, and keep it locked. Don’t forget to cover and lock all hot tubs, spas, and whirlpools in between use as well. And provide appropriately sized life jackets at home and around lakes, rivers, and oceans.
What to Do in an Emergency
In a drowning emergency, time is of the essence and survival depends on restarting breathing as soon as possible. First, remove the child from the water and check to make sure air passages are clear. If the child is not breathing, start CPR and call 911. If you believe the child has a neck injury – from diving, for instance – keep the child on their back and brace their neck and shoulders to prevent movement and further injury to the spine
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