Summer has arrived and with it comes the family fun in the sun and wet and wild water parks, pools and lakes. Summer also means that it is time to re-engage your family in water safety practices. In many states, drowning is a leading cause of accidental deaths among young children. It ranks as the second leading cause nationally, according to the National Safety Council. Each year, an additional 4,200 children are treated for submersion injuries at emergency rooms throughout the country. Most of these children were under the supervision of one or both of their parents and more than 75% had been “missing” for less than 5 minutes.
Swim Lessons One of the first lines of protection in pool safety is learning to swim. A child as young as six months can learn the skills to possibly save themselves from a fall into the water, according to Infant Swimming Resource. Children six – to – twelve months old can learn to roll over and float and breathe from a facedown position. Children as young as a year old can be taught to swim, rotate over to rest and breathe, then flip over from a back float and continue swimming.
If your children have already had lessons, there are a few other precautions you may take to ensure a safe day at the community pool, lake or beach. Encourage children of all ages to always swim with a buddy and to stay within designated swimming areas (preferably where a lifeguard is present.) The American Red Cross warns to watch for the “dangerous too’s.” These include children being too tired, water being too cold, swimming too far away from safety, and getting too much sun.
Flotation devices can be a double-edged sword. While they provide new swimmer the ability to wade into deeper water, they can slip from under a child suddenly. “Water wings” or swimmies as they are often referred to, can give parents and children a false sense of security in the water. The one exception is a certified life jackets. Always remember to wear a certified life jacket when boating.
Supervision We all recognize that children should never be near water unattended. If you are at a pool with another adult, be sure the person in charge of supervision is aware that this is their responsibility. Assuming someone else is watching can be an easy, yet grave, mistake. Designate the supervisor to be an adult; watching a child in the water is too great a responsibility for an older child or sibling.
Sun Block The sun can be especially brutal on children’s skin. Using sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 45 will ensure there are no tears after the sun goes down. It is best to put sunscreen on 30 minutes before they head toward the sunshine and often it is easier to do so before the water tempts them! Fair-skinned children (and adults) reapply sunscreen as often as every 30 – 45 minutes. Don’t forget hats and sunglasses, too!
Snacks Bring snacks and drinks that will help keep your family hydrated. Remember not to bring liquor or glass to community pools. Water helps the body regulate temperature and keep you cool. Sodas and caffeine are diuretics, which will contribute to dehydration. Healthy snacks can also contribute to a more enjoyable experience. Choose foods that will sustain you throughout the day such as fruit, peanut butter, and salted items.