As the weather starts to warm up and we all look forward to more time outside and afternoons by the pool, it is important to keep water safety in mind. Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death for young children (ages 1 – 4); most of those deaths occur in swimming pools. These tragic deaths are preventable through proper environmental safety-proofing and supervision. Drowning happens so quickly and small children can drown in as little as one inch of water, so take the time now to develop a safety plan.
If you have a swimming pool, proper fencing is the most important prevention action to take. Fencing should be at least 4 feet high and should isolate the pool from the yard and house and be self-latching. Small plastic or inflatable pools are fun for the family and great for kids’ development, but when you are done playing, the pool should always be tipped over and stored upside down and out of the reach of children.
Drowning doesn’t always look like it does in the movies. Shockingly, many people that drown are within 25 yards of someone that can help, but the signs and symptoms are not recognized.
When you are in the pool, infants and toddlers should always be within an arm’s reach of an adult (“touch supervision”), and they need to be actively supervised at all times. In a group of adults, consider designating someone a “child watcher” for a certain period of time to avoid lapses in supervision. Inflatables, water noodles and water wings are fun, but they are not a substitute for a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device. Even if your kids are using these devices, they need to be supervised at all times.
**Written by Denise Dowd, MD, Emergency and Urgent Care Physician at Children’s Mercy Hospital, who serves as an adviser for Charlie’s House, a non-profit dedicated to preventing childhood injuries in and around the home. Check us out at www.charlieshouse.org to learn about how to safety proof your home. Dr. Dowd is the Director of the Injury Free Coalition for Kids of Kansas City and the Co-Director of the Center for Childhood Safety.