Drowning Prevention Tips

Kids are always ready to toss on their swimming gear and hit the pool. But for parents, a trip to the pool can’t be the carefree adventure it is for kids.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death among children ages 1 to 4, and the second cause among kids ages 4 to 14. In 2020, Dayton Children’s emergency department saw 18 patients due to drowning or near drowning. Sadly, three of those patients passed away.

Most people think they will hear a child struggle in the water, but drowning is a silent and swift killer. A child slips under the water normally without a sound, and in less than a minute, suffers irreversible damage. “Kids drown quickly and quietly,” says Lisa Schwing, RN, trauma program manager at Dayton Children’s Hospital. “A drowning child cannot cry or shout for help.”

Here are some tips to make sure your swimming days stay safe this summer:

Designate a water watcher. Most parents supervise their child while swimming — however, they will also admit they are often distracted by other activities. “A supervised child is in sight at all times with your undivided attention on the child,” Schwing says. “When there are children in or near the water, adults should take turns paying undivided attention.” If a parent is the designated watcher, nothing should distract them from the kids in the pool. Put down the cell phone, tune out the conversations around you and focus on the kids in the water. One moment of distraction is not worth a lifetime of regret.

Teach kids to swim. One of the best ways to make your child safer in the water is to make sure they learn good swimming skills. You can start introducing your babies to water when they are about 6 months old.

Swimming lessons won’t make your child invincible. There is no substitute for active supervision. Don’t rely on inflatable swimming toys, such as water wings and noodles. These are not approved safety equipment and cannot be used in place of a life jacket.

Other water survival skills your child should know include:
– Stepping into water over their head and returning to the surface
– Being able to float or tread water for one minute
– Turning around in a circle and find an exit
– Swimming 25 yards to exit the water

Never let kids swim alone. Keep young children within arm’s reach of an adult. Older kids still need a buddy in the water with them, too.

Think BRIGHT when buying swimwear. Bright is best when it comes to your child’s swim suit. Colors like white and light blue can disappear in the water, and darker colors can be mistaken for leaves or a shadow in the water. Bright colors, like neon pink and neon orange, are best for increasing visibility.

​Tips for Pools

1. For large backyard pools, install fences or other barriers with locks.
2. For smaller pools, drain after each use.
3. Beware of large, inflatable, above-ground pools. Children may fall in as they lean against the soft side.

Tips for Open Water

1. Watch for hazards. Open water (lakes, rivers, oceans) can have limited visibility, sudden drop-offs, uneven surfaces, currents and undertow.
2. Follow the signs. Use designated swimming areas and recreational areas. Look for posted signs about open water hazards or when lifeguards will be on duty.
3. Wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket. Choose one that is right for your child’s weight and water activity.

What to Do In an Emergency

Whenever a child is missing, always check the pool first. If your child has a near-drowning incident, they should be seen in the emergency department and monitored. “Approximately 1% to 2% of children with a submersion event develop a condition called pulmonary edema and produce excessive secretions within 24 hours,” Schwing says. “Seek emergency medical treatment at the first sign of shortness of breath.”

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