It’s a warm summer day and you’re at the beach with your kids. Your cell phone rings and you answer it, shifting your focus from your kids to the conversation. Good idea? Not at all, and it could even be deadly. Children can get into trouble in a matter of seconds when around water, so Safe Kids Grand Forks recommends that parents actively supervise – with their eyes on their kids at all times – when they are in or near the water.
Drowning is the second highest cause of unintentional death for children ages 1 to 4 and 10 to 14. Approximately 3 out of 4 pool submersion deaths and 3 out of 5 pool submersion injuries occur at a home pool. Overall, approximately 830 children ages 14 and under die each year due to unintentional drownings, and on average, there are an estimated 3,600 injuries to children after near-drowning incidents each year.
Kids drown quickly and quietly and a drowning child cannot cry or shout for help. The most important precaution for parents is active supervision. Simply being near your child is not necessarily supervising.
To help keep kids safe this pool season, Safe Kids Grand Forks recommends these precautions:
- Always actively supervise children in and around water. Don’t leave, even for a moment. Stay where you can see, hear and reach kids in water. Avoid talking on the phone, preparing a meal, reading and other distractions.
- If you have a pool or spa, or if your child visits a home that has a pool or spa, it should be surrounded on all four sides by a fence at least five feet high with gates that close and latch automatically. Studies estimate that this type of isolation fencing could prevent 50 to 90 percent of child drownings in residential pools.
- A pool or spa should be equipped with an anti-entrapment drain cover and a safety vacuum release system to prevent children from being caught in the suction of the drain. The powerful suction forces can trap a child underwater or cause internal injuries.
- Don’t leave toys in or near the pool, where they could attract unsupervised kids. For extra protection, consider a pool alarm and alarms on the doors, windows and gates leading to the pool.
- Enroll your kids in swimming lessons around age 4, but don’t assume swimming lessons make your child immune to drowning. There is no substitute for active supervision.
- Don’t rely on inflatable swimming toys such as “water wings” and noodles. If your child can’t swim, stay within an arm’s reach.
- Learn infant and child CPR. In less than two hours, you can learn effective interventions that can give a fighting chance to a child whose breathing and heartbeat have stopped.
- Keep rescue equipment, a phone and emergency numbers by the pool.
These guidelines apply to inflatable and portable pools, not just in-ground pools. A child can drown in just an inch of water. Kiddie pools should be emptied and stored out of reach when not in use.
Even a near-drowning incident can have lifelong consequences. Kids who survive a near-drowning may have brain damage, and after four to six minutes under water – the damage is usually irreversible. Although 90 percent of parents say they supervise their children while swimming, many acknowledge that they engage in other distracting activities at the same time – talking, eating, reading or taking care of another child.
A supervised child is in sight at all times with your undivided attention focused on the child. When there are children in or near the water, adults should take turns serving as the designated “Water Watcher,” paying undivided attention. Visit www.safekids.org to download a free Water Watcher badge.
For more info on infant safety or other childhood injury prevention topics, contact Safe Kids Grand Forks at firstname.lastname@example.org. Altru Health System is proud to serve as the lead agency for Safe Kids Grand Forks.