Summer temperatures are steady, and vacations are in full swing, but water safety is a year-long issue to consider.
While most think of pools, lakes, and other bodies of water when talking about water safety, it’s important to note that water safety covers much more. “Kids can drown in as little as one to two inches of water,” says Riley Physicians pediatrician Jeremy Mescher, MD. “It’s important to be vigilant and supervise at all times.”
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), drowning is the single leading cause of death among children aged 1 – 4. The most common source of drowning accidents is the home. This could be a home pool, bathtub, a bucket of water, or even the toilet bowl.
There are many things parents can do to help prevent these accidents:
- Get rid of distractions and be vigilant. Put away your phone, avoid drugs and alcohol, and remove other distractions when supervising children in water. It may be a good idea to take shifts with another responsible adult.
- Get rid of open water sources. For example, dump baby pools when you’re finished using them for the day, use childproof locks on toilet seats and do not leave children unattended in a bathtub.
- Make sure children wear life vests if they have not taken swim lessons and continue to watch them even after they take swim lessons. “Don’t have a false sense of security with lessons. Water watcher rules still apply,” says Dr. Mescher.
- Start kids in swim lessons. The AAP recommends swim lessons as a layer of protection against drowning that can begin for many children starting at age 1. Children develop at different rates, so not all are ready to begin at the same age.
When considering swim lessons, it’s important to consider your child’s developmental stage and trainers. Some children may have anxiety or fear around water or groups of people, so private lessons may be a better option. “Always look for trainers that are CPR certified, and make sure there is a good ratio of students to instructor for classes,” advises Dr. Mescher.
When it comes to open water safety (such as oceans and lakes), educate children so they know what to expect and how it differs from pool water. Waves, undertows, and unpredictability make open water swimming different, and therefore kids should always wear life vests. Kids and adults should also never swim alone in open water.
Swimming is a great way to exercise and socialize for children when appropriate protections are in place, so remember to play it safe when out having fun this summer.