The weather is warming up in Austin and spring is here! Warmer weather means sunshine, swimming, ‘sno cones’, and lots of outside play time, but these do not come without risk. Today we want to highlight a few safety concerns for children playing in and around water.
The best way to prevent drowning is close supervision of children in water by a responsible adult at all times. Never leave a child alone near a body of water (even a small one), even for a moment. Swimming lessons in children over one year old can be beneficial to help keep children safe, but no matter how good a child is at swimming they should never swim alone. Swimming lessons alone do not prevent drowning. It is important to teach children the rules when they are playing near the water. Young children need to be within an arms reach of an adult at all times, providing touch supervision.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all children learn to swim, but children develop at different rates and are ready to learn to swim at different times. For younger children (those 1-4 years old) the AAP has found some evidence that formal swimming lessons may result in less chance of drowning. These studies are small, so they are not recommending all children this age take lessons, but leave it up to parents based on the child’s physical abilities, developmental abilities and frequency to exposure of water. Studies have not shown swimming lessons in children under 1 will help prevent drowning, so the AAP does not recommend them.
For those of you with swimming pools in your homes, it is important that you children know how to be safe around the pool. Swimming pools should always have a fence surrounding them (at least 4 feet tall) with self-closing gates with latches that are higher than children can reach. There should be safety equipment around the pool (a shepherds hook, life preserver and telephone). Routinely inspect that the pool is working correctly, all drains have covers and any suction has anti-entrapment devices on them. Poolsafely.gov is a great website for more information for any parents who are considering a personal pool or who already have one.
Pools are not the only place kids are exposed to water, here in Austin we have many great rivers, lakes and springs that are wonderful to cool off in. Children need to be closely supervised in these areas at all times as well. A responsible adult should be within one arms length and provide ‘touch supervision’. Do not allow children to dive into water unless someone has checked to be sure it is deep enough and an adult is close by. Teach children the danger of diving or jumping into water where they don’t know the depth. Children should be aware of currents and know not to swim in any fast moving water. At the ocean teach children about rip tides and swimming parallel to the shore in order to get safely back to shore should they find themselves being pulled out to sea.
Life jackets should be worn by children when on any sort of water craft. Be sure the life jackets are well fitting and all straps are belted. Life jacket sizing is by a child’s weight, so ensure each child has the proper fitting life jacket. Healthychildren.org gives great information on life jackets for those with additional questions.
There are many components to water safety and while a lot of fun can be had in the water it is important that all children are taught how to be safe. Talk to your pediatrician if you have additional questions about keeping your kids safe in the water. To read more, go to healthychildren.org.