Swimming is a fun activity for many children to celebrate their summer vacation.
The water can be so much fun, yet it can also be dangerous for young children. Even for kids who know how to swim, there have still been drownings.
According to the National Drowning Prevention Alliance, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional death among children ages 1 to 4 years old and children 10 to 14 years. Children 4 and under actually have the highest drowning death rate in the U.S. and the majority of child drownings occur in backyard pools & spas.
In June, 2010, former NFL quarterback Randall Cunningham's 2-year-old son drowned in his parent’s pool spa in Las Vega ... NYC sixth grader Nicole Suriel drowned on a class trip to Long Beach ... and two-year-old Joseph Anthony Daignault died on June 29th after drowning in his family’s swimming pool. Since the end of May 2010, eight children died in pool drownings just in Tennessee alone.
According to Dr. Mark Waltzman at the Children’s Hospital in Boston, toddlers have a difficult time keeping their top-heavy bodies balanced when sitting up and they often have a hard time getting back up after they fall, and can drown in just one inch of water.
Tragic stories like these are one reason the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released new recommendations this summer suggest swimming lessons for children between ages 1 and 4. The AAP still does not recommend swimming lessons until the age of one, and it recommends consulting your child's pediatrician to make sure their motor and cognitive skills are ready for swim lessons.
A study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine suggests that formal swim lessons can reduce the risk of drowning for 1 to 4 year olds by 88 percent. However participating in swim lessons will not "drown-proof" a child, careful adult supervision also is an important part of keeping children safe in water.
Drowning is usually a silent event, without splashing or a call for help.
The National Drowning Prevention Alliance recommends these tips:
• Never leave children unsupervised near any body of water - not even for a moment
• Install a fence and alarms on every door leading to water – pools and hot tubs
• Hot tubs should have appropriate and safe drain covers and vacuum releases
• Do not rely just on flotation devices or swimming lessons to protect your children in the pool or ocean
• Teach your children water safety skills
• Learn CPR
• Swim in areas supervised by a lifeguard.
• Read and obey all rules and posted signs.
• Children or inexperienced swimmers should take precautions, such as wearing a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal floatation device (PFD) when around the water.
• Watch out for the dangerous "too's," too tired, too cold, too far from safety, too much sun, too much strenuous activity.
• Be knowledgeable of the water environment you are in and its potential hazards, such as deep and shallow areas, currents, depth changes, obstructions and where the entry and exit points are located. The more informed you are, the more aware you will be of hazards and safe practices.
• Pay attention to local weather conditions and forecasts. Stop swimming at the first indication of bad weather.
• Use a feet-first entry when entering the water.
• Enter headfirst only when the area is clearly marked for diving and has no obstructions.
• Do not mix alcohol with swimming, diving or boating. Alcohol impairs your judgment, balance, and coordination, affects your swimming and diving skills, and reduces your body's ability to stay warm.
When at the beach:
Dress your child in bright colors when going to the lake or the beach.
Use a consistent color and style of swim suit so all family members know what the child is wearing.
Carry a picture of your child in the consistent outfit to show a lifeguard or others
Have a hook, rope and throw ring attached to the dock so that they can be used at a moment's notice
Have the child wear a life jacket in a boat or around the water when there is the potential for an accidental submersion.
Life jackets are not a substitute for the ability to swim or for adult supervision. Flotation devices can provide a false sense of security for parents and children. These items can easily deflate or fall off your child's arm.It takes one minute to turn your head before your child is in danger!