It's summer, and that means plenty of time by the pool. But while water can be lots of fun, it's also a safety hazard. Drowning is the second leading cause of death for American kids ages one to four. (Birth defects are the first). Every day, two kids under the age of 14 die as a result of drowning.
Swimming lessons may keep your kids safer around the water, but even good swimmers are at risk of drowning. It's up to you -- the parent -- to provide adequate supervision and to enforce water safety requirements. These tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) can help you decrease your child's risk of drowning:
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Never leave small children alone or in the care of another child while near water. Preschoolers, toddlers and infants need constant, focused supervision around water -- even around wading pools, rain barrels and water buckets.
Use "touch supervision" in and around open bodies of water. An adult should be within arms-length of any infant, toddler or weak swimmer who is in or around water. Sitting on the side of the pool with your eyes trained on your child is not good enough; kids can lose their balance and topple headfirst into the water in an instant, and you'll lose precious seconds if you're not in arms-reach. Adults who supervise kids near water should know infant and child CPR.
Fence in all pools, even inflatable ones. Most communities have ordinances that require fencing around in-ground or traditional above-ground pools, but many popular inflatable pools aren't covered under the ordinances. Fence them in anyway. The AAP recommends a 4-sided, 4-foot tall fence with less than 4-inches of clearance between the ground and fence. The fence should not be easy to climb. (Most kids can easily scale a chain-link fence.)
Keep kids away from pool drains, filters and pipes. Since 2007, public pools and spas have been required to use special drain covers to prevent drowning from entrapment. These covers are designed to keep hair and body parts from becoming stuck in drains. But kids should still stay far away from drains, filters and pipes. Remember: the law only covers public pools.
Enroll your kids in swim lessons. New research shows that learning to swim can decrease the likelihood of drowning, even for kids as young as one. But swim lessons are no substitute for adult supervision. All young children, even strong swimmers, should be under constant supervision when in or near the water.
All kids should wear an approved personal flotation device (PFD) when riding watercraft. When in a boat, kids should wear an approved lifejacket. (Having lifejackets in the bottom of the boat won't keep your kid afloat if he falls in!). It's also a good idea to have small children wear lifejackets when fishing or spending time at the edge of a lake, river or ocean.
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