With Memorial Day weekend almost here and beach and pools season upon us, the American Academy of Pediatrics has put out updated advice for parents to prevent drowning. The academy noted that drowning is the second leading cause of death for children aged 1 to 19 years old. Teenaged boys and toddlers are at the greatest risk to become one of the 1,100 deaths of children by drowning each year.
Keys for parents of young kids was always to be within touching distance of their children when near a pool or other body of water. And while teaching your children to swim is important, it does not “drown-proof” a child, said Jeffrey Weiss, the lead author of the policy statement which is available for free online from the medical journal Pediatrics,
Here is specific advice for parents regarding drowning prevention:
- Never – even for a moment – leave small children alone or in the care of another young child while in bathtubs, pools, spas or wading pools, or near irrigation ditches or standing water. Bath seats cannot substitute for adult supervision. Empty water from buckets and other containers immediately after use. To prevent drowning in toilets, young children should not be left alone in the bathroom.
- Closely supervise children in and around water. With infants, toddlers and weak swimmers, an adult should be within an arm’s length. With older children and better swimmers, an adult should be focused on the child and not distracted by other activities.
- If children are in out-of-home child care, ask about exposure to water and the ratio of adults to children.
- If you have a pool, install a four-sided fence that is at least 4 feet high to limit access to the pool. The fence should be hard to climb (not chain-link) and have a self-latching, self-closing gate. Families may consider pool alarms and rigid pool covers as additional layers of protection, but neither can take the place of a fence.
- Children need to learn to swim. AAP supports swimming lessons for most children 4 years and older. Classes may reduce the risk of drowning in younger children as well, but because children develop at different rates, not all children will be ready to swim at the same age.
- Parents, caregivers and pool owners should learn CPR.
- Do not use air-filled swimming aids (such as inflatable arm bands) in place of life jackets. They can deflate and are not designed to keep swimmers safe.
- All children should wear a life jacket when riding in a boat. Small children and nonswimmers should also wear one at water’s edge, such as on a river bank or pier.
- Parents should know the depth of the water and any underwater hazards before allowing children to jump in. The first time you enter the water, jump feet first; don’t dive.
- When choosing an open body of water for children to swim in, select a site with lifeguards. Swimmers should know what to do in case of rip currents (swim parallel to the shore until out of the current, then swim back to the shore).
- Counsel teenagers about the increased risk of drowning when alcohol is involved.