Going to the beach or pool is a popular summer activity but did you know a child can drown in as little as one inch of water? Drowning is usually quick and silent. A child will lose consciousness two minutes after submersion, with irreversible brain damage occurring should the child survive. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, at least 350 children die each year from drowning, with most occurring in the summer months.
Keep an eye on young children and prevent them from drowning. Here are a few points to consider when you are around water:
If you have a pool or spa, install a 4-foot fence around it. Besides lowering your insurance premiums, you will prevent direct access to the pool. Children are curious and move quickly; a “self-locking” latch on the gate provides the best obstacle for young children who might want to jump into the pool.
Install safety drain covers. These devices prevent a body part, hair, or clothing from being trapped by the drain cover. All public and private pools as well as spas are required to be fitted with a drain cover per the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act of 2007. For specifications, visit www.poolsafely.gov.
Supervise your child. The most important preventive tactic is to supervise your child around water at all times. This means actively watching them, keeping them within arms’ reach, and not just glancing up every now and then. Don’t assume they will splash and yell for help if they get into trouble. Children can drown quietly in just a few minutes.
Learn to swim. Children can take formal swimming instruction from the age of four years. Water safety skills are included in the training. Swimming programs are available for younger children and babies, but the emphasis is on building confidence and encouraging the child to enjoy water, rather than teaching them to swim. However, children under age five may not be able to use these skills in an emergency so never rely on this to keep them safe.
Use flotation devices. If you buy personal flotation devices, like inflatable vests, make sure they conform to U.S standards – always check the label. You should think of these devices as something to help familiarize your child with water, not as a safety item. A flotation device is not a replacement for supervision. Always supervise your child, even when they are wearing their personal flotation device, in case they tumble upside-down or slip through the vest.
At the beach: Supervise your child at all times – don’t assume that a beach that was safe in the past is safe now, since the action of waves, weather, and wind can influence depth and currents. If the beach uses a color-coded flag warning system, check the flag color and heed the guidelines. Only take your child to beaches with lifeguard patrols. Make sure your child swims only in the protected area. Teach your child to float and raise an arm to signal for help from a lifeguard.
Going to the beach or pool is a lot of fun – keep it safe and always be alert around children. Have a great and safe summer!