Splishin’ and a Splashin’
A backyard swimming pool can be a great way to have fun, exercise or just cool off on a hot summer day. While a pool can be great fun for the entire family, it is important for pool owners to be responsible.
Children between the ages of 1-4 are the most at risk. In fact, drowning is the leading cause of injury death for children in this age group. According to the CDC, in the 10 years between 1999 and 2008, more than 8,000 children under the age of 15 died from accidental drowning.
For every child who drowns in a pool, 10 were treated in the emergency room for submersion-related injuries. These injuries can have life-changing consequences, including brain damage, which can lead to disabilities, such as memory loss, learning disabilities and decreased motor skills.
The most tragic thing about these statistics is that they are, for the most part, avoidable. Here are some simple steps parents and pool owners can take to reduce or eliminate the risk of child drowning injuries and deaths.
A simple four-sided fence that separates the pool from the rest of the backyard would prevent more than half of all swimming pool drownings among young children. The CDC recommends a fence that is at least four feet high. Fences should also have a self closing and latching gate that opens outward and a latch that is out of the reach of children.
This same precaution applies to above-ground pools. Because these pools have flexible sides, they are prone to collapse. When this happens, a child can fall into the pool.
While fences are the most important way to prevent access to a pool, there are several secondary devices available on the market. These devices include covers, nets and pool alarms that can help keep children out of the pool or warn a nearby adult. These devices are not a substitute for a proper fence.
Teach your child to swim at an early age. Formal swimming lessons with a trained instructor are important for all children, especially children that spend time in and around the water.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) supports swimming lessons as early as 1 year old. Swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning in children between the ages of 1-4 by as much as 88 percent. Parents should consider the child’s exposure to water, maturity, and physical ability when considering swimming lessons.
Life jackets are the best way to keep a child’s head above water. Inflatable and foam-filled toys can be fun and instructional, but they are not safety devices. Rafts, tubes, floaties, noodles, etc., are not replacements for life jackets.
Never let a child in or near a pool alone. Don’t let a child supervise other children even if the child is a good swimmer. Always be within arm’s length of young children or inexperienced swimmers.
Don’t be distracted by books, phones, texting, games or anything else. Be vigilant even if there is a lifeguard on duty. It is common for another swimmer or bystander to be the first to notice someone is in trouble or drowned.
Know CPR. If CPR is started immediately it can reduce the risk of death or the severity of injury. By the time emergency personnel arrive it may be too late.
So break out the sunscreen splishsplash, cool off, get in shape and have fun this summer, but be sure to protect your family and those around you.