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How to keep your kids safe while they swim

Close parent supervision is key to water safety


By Shonette Doggett
August 3, 2017

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When it comes to beating the heat, jumping in the pool or lake for a swim is a popular option. But, without proper safeguards, it can also be risky.

Ten people on average die each day in the United States from non-boating related drowning. And boating-related drownings add almost one more additional death each day. This is according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Twenty percent of these drowning deaths are in children 14 and younger. And most of the drownings in children ages 1 to 4 occur at home in swimming pools, tubs or other containers holding water.

When I ask parents about water safety, they usually agree that keeping an eye on their children in the water is important. However, there is also a misconception that if their child is struggling, they would “hear it.” In reality, drowning is silent.

There is also a false sense of security when more adults are around. Parents feel that with more eyes available to watch, children are safer. But actually, when “everyone” is watching, no one is really watching. As a result, a fun get-together can turn into an emergency very quickly.

Most water incidents can be avoided by following these 7 tips whenever your family is on the lake or at a pool:

  1. Designate a water watcher every single time children are in or near the water. The water watcher should know CPR and how to swim. And I recommend using a water watcher card to make sure that one person is always actively watching the water. This card can be passed from adult to adult. Whoever is holding it knows it’s their responsibility to be watching the water, and that that’s the only task they should be doing. Water watching is not something you can do while also reading, texting, socializing or drinking alcohol. If you take on the role, be sure to have a phone close by at all times in case you need to call for help. And, if a child is missing, check the pool or lake first.
  2. Learn CPR. CPR classes are available at Lakeview Hospital. Search “CPR” on the Health & Wellness Classes page to find an upcoming class that works for you. Organizations such as the American Heart Association, American Red Cross and local fire and EMS agencies also often offer CPR classes at various community locations.
  3. Make sure every member in the family learns water survival skills. For me, this is the most important rule. And the best way to accomplish it is through swim lessons. Swimming lessons teach children what to do if they fall in, how to get to an edge and how to get out. And they teach important techniques such as floating on your back. Young or inexperienced swimmers should wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket, especially near or on open water. And you should always stay in arm’s reach of infants and toddlers.
  4. Avoid inflatable swimming aids (e.g. floaties). These may give a false sense of security for both children and parents. And they are no substitute for U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets.
  5. Enforce safety rules. I recommend these rules: No diving, stay away from drain covers, always swim with a buddy, and walk – don’t run – by the pool.
  6. Check that the pool has safe and intact drain covers. Don’t use a pool if a drain cover is missing or broken. Children’s hair, limbs or swimsuits can get stuck in a drain or suction opening. That can trap them underwater.
  7. Make sure the pool in your yard or neighborhood is completely surrounded and secured by a proper fence. The fence should be at least four feet high, not chain-link and have no footholds or handholds that could allow a child climb it. Latches to the fence’s gate should be out of children’s reach. Install an audible gate alarm that will alert you inside the house if the gate is opened. And when it comes to kiddie pools or other buckets of water, make sure to always empty them after use.

About Shonette Doggett

Shonette Doggett is the Injury Prevention Program Supervisor for the Trauma and Burn program at Regions Hospital. She has worked at Regions since 2000. Shonette has training as an EMT and a background in education. And this is what makes her the perfect person to support research and develop programs aimed at reducing the number and severity of unintentional preventable injuries. She is also a Coalition Coordinator for the Safe Kids Greater East Metro/St. Croix Valley chapter. Shonette is married with four boys, ages 6 to 16. She is currently in graduate school. And she enjoys sports and loves animals (especially her cats).

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