Posted by Marianne Frederick
Pools make for great family fun in the summer, whether you take young children to the community or neighborhood pool, or you have a swimming pool in your backyard!
One way to keep pool experiences with your children safe and fun is to make sure certain safety precautions are in place!
First, think about water! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tell us that children under the age of 4 have the highest rate of drowning in the U.S., most commonly in swimming pools and spas. This statistic highlights the importance of making sure there are necessary physical barriers to a pool, such as pool fencing, pool gate or door locks, and pool alarms. It is important that a young child cannot gain access to a pool without an adult’s assistance and supervision.
Second, it is critical for parents and caregivers to supervise a young child all of the time, especially in and around water–whether it’s at the pool or beach, in the bathtub, wading pool or bucket–children can drown in less than 3 inches of water. Merely the nature of water can make a child slippery, and slips and falls are common around pools. Because water displaces body weight, a small, young child can easily lose their balance even in shallow water. Add to that the hard surface of a pool side or step, or the board of a boat dock–and you may face a trip to an emergency room.
One word of caution to moms and dads, supervising a child at the pool does not equal sitting by the pool and talking on your cell phone while your child is playing in the water. One young mother on her cell phone at a local pool remarked when I asked her if her child was in the pool, “He’s wearing a life jacket.” You should keep your cell phone with you at the pool–in case of emergency. But don’t take your attention away from your child in the water! A life jacket is good, but it’s still no substitution for the focused attention of a parent or caregiver who can intervene if a young child gets in trouble in the water.
Recently, two young neighbor children were playing with a hose in the neighbor’s front yard. The older child pointed the hose in the younger child’s face, and the hose was on full blast. The younger child (about 3 years old) had her mouth open–and was choking. This was definitely a “when you see something, do something” moment! Very fortunately, their parent had also seen them (from inside the house), came out and rescued the young child from choking and drowning. A child doesn’t need to be in a pool or a tub, to drown! What was wrong with that picture is a parent or caregiver should have been outside with the two young children and the 5-year old should not have had access to the hose or water spigot. Accidents happen quickly.
As parents and caregivers, we can’t be casual about supervision of young children in or around water, so here are a few additional safety tips:
- Young children should not be allowed to use pool equipment designed for older, larger children–even floating water toys can be dangerous to young children.
- If a child cannot swim, get an appropriately sized life jacket for your child’s size and weight, make sure it fits and that it keeps your child’s face and mouth above the water.
- Make sure life jackets are certified floatation devices. You will see a notation on the life jacket. Water wings and inner tubes are flotation toys, not life-saving devices, so make sure your child has the correct flotation device.