This past Monday, my daughter started swimming lessons at our local rec center. I’ve always been BIG into safety, and pool safety is no exception for me. As a child, my mom always made it a priority for us to learn how to swim well. Knowing lifesaving swimming techniques has been beneficial throughout my life, and is something I will prioritize with my own kids as well. Now that summer is here, knowing how to keep your kiddos safe in the water is essential since they will likely spend many hours at the pool. Whether you have a home pool or frequent your local community pool, here are some tips to help avoid any tragedies!
Know the Facts!
It may seem crazy, but one of the first ways to keep everyone safe this summer is to know what can cause injury or death when enjoying pool time. One of the most obvious worries when visiting the pool is drowning. In fact, “drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death behind motor vehicle crashes for children ages 1–14” (CDC). Knowing these stats reminds us that it can happen to anyone, and it can happen to you.
So what makes drowning such a frequent cause of death in children when it is 100% preventable? Although there are many things that can contribute, some of the main reasons for drowning include: not knowing how to swim, limited adult supervision, a pool that hasn’t been properly secured, and improper lifejacket use.
It’s also important to be educated on what it looks like when someone is drowning. Small children can drown in a matter of seconds and can do so silently. So if you’re looking for flailing arms, you’re going to miss it when it does happen.
Fatal Drowning Prevention
1. Proper Attire
Did you know that different colored swimsuits are easier to spot if your child goes under water? In a recent color test study performed by ALIVE solutions Inc., it was discovered that bright, contrasting colors were the best choice. Choosing lighter colors such as light blue and white were the worst; when fully submerged, the child nearly vanishes beneath the water.
Photo Credit: Alive-Solutions.com
2. Swimming Lessons
Swimming lessons can be incredibly beneficial. They help kids feel comfortable in the water and can teach them skills that will allow them to save themselves if they ever face a scary situation. ISR Self-Rescue® Survival Swimming Lessons are incredible lessons for children ages 6 months to 6 years that teach life-saving skills beyond those taught in traditional swimming lessons. Educating your kids can help them feel safer and more confident in the water, but make sure you don’t let that substitute adult supervision. Even kids that “know” how to swim can still drown.
Providing effective supervision is one of the best ways you can prevent any tragedies. Get in the pool with your kiddos, even if you are confident they know how to swim. Getting in the pool with them will allow you to watch more closely and provide help quickly if needed.
It’s also important to be vigilant when allowing kids to go to a friend’s house. Find out ahead of time if there will be a pool there, and double check that there will be proper supervision at all times. If using a home pool, make sure the pool area stays secure unless you are outside with your kids. Do not allow them to be outside without you. Most childhood drownings occur at home pools and this is largely due to the fact that there is no lifeguard or proper supervision.
4. Install Physical Barriers and Alarms
Young toddlers can disappear from our sight in an instant. For this reason alone, it is vital that you install proper barriers and alarms if you have a pool at home. Creating a safe pool area may take a little time, but it’s worth it if it means saving your child from death.
It’s important to note that barriers and alarms are just another defense against drowning. If your child goes missing, even if you are in the house, always check the pool first to ensure they didn’t somehow make it there. Kids can be extremely determined. Even if you think you’ve secured the pool, don’t assume that it will keep them 100% safe. Not sure how to secure your pool? Read up on that here!
5. Remove Toys
When on vacation last winter, my family was hanging out in the pool area. My daughter (age 3 at the time) was having fun walking along the edge of the pool. I was standing behind her, but I noticed a major hazard as she was watching the other kids in the pool: the array of colorful pool toys floating on the surface of the water. She would often try to reach in to grab the toys. If she hadn’t been supervised, she could’ve easily fallen into the water. To avoid attracting your children to the water when it’s not in use, remove all pool toys from the water and store them in a shed or your garage.
6. Don’t Rely on Flotation Devices
There are hundreds of different types of life jackets and flotation devices on the market. Some of these are safer for young kids than others. When picking out a flotation device, try to find something with a strap that secures between their legs and offers neck support. Ensure there is a tight and secure fit. If the jacket is too big, find a size that will be more suitable.
Remember, when using flotation devices, do not assume your child cannot drown. Kids can still drown wearing a flotation device. When at our community pool last summer, a mother put her toddler in a puddle jumper, placed her in the pool, and wandered to the opposite side of the pool area–providing no supervision. This false sense of security that flotation devices provide can heavily contribute to drowning. Water wings and other similar flotation devices may also reinforce poor swimming techniques, so try not to use them every time you go to the pool.
7. Keep Lifesaving Gear Near Pool
Make sure you have the proper tools needed to provide aid to your child if they get injured during pool time. This may include a first aid kit, rescue tubes, ring buoys, and more. Here are some guidelines on what to keep near your pool!
8. Take a CPR Class
Prevention is key. But when all our prevention methods fail, we need to know what to do in order to save a life. Being certified in CPR is not only beneficial if your child drowns, but can allow you to save a life of any age at any time.
9. Educate Everyone on Pool Rules
Rules are an important part of keeping everyone safe. Whether you’re going to a public pool or have a pool in your own yard, make sure to sit down with your family and discuss pool safety together. Set rules together so that everyone understands the dangers and can help contribute to keeping one another safe.
For young children, consider downloading a pool safety app that can help teach them about being safe in the water. Stewie the Duck Learns to Swim is a fun app that offers a story, game and song to encourage kids to be safe in the water. You can also use a fun printable to discuss these rules with your kids!
Other Pool Safety Tips
Although preventing fatal drowning is our priority, there are plenty of other things to be aware of in order to keep our kids safe during pool time.
1. Plan Ahead
Children can get severe sunburns and heat stroke in the hot sun, so planning ahead can prevent this from happening and ensure our pool day is pleasant.
- Timing: Avoid going out between 10 and 4. This is when UVB rays are the most direct and can cause the most damage to our kiddo’s fragile skin.
- Pack Your Bag: Make sure to pack your bag with all the essentials. Here are my top items for your pool bag:
- Sunscreen: We all know sunscreen is important, but it’s often the last thing I remember to bring with me to the pool. Make sure to apply sunscreen about 30 minutes before getting into the pool, and reapply often. For young babies, try to find plenty of shade, and apply infant sunscreen. Here are some awesome guidelines when using sunscreen on children.
- Umbrella or sun shade: If you will be lounging on the side of the pool with a small baby, ensure they stay covered from the sun. Find a shady spot, or use a blanket or umbrella to keep the sun rays off.
- Hats: The number one place I get sunburned when outside in the summer is the top of my head. To prevent this, make sure to pack a hat for yourself and for each of your kids. This can also be a great way to protect the ears, face and neck from getting burned as long as you find something with a large brim.
- Sunglasses: Don’t forget your eyes! In fact, your eyes can get sunburned just like your skin. So make sure to throw in those sunglasses as well.
- Cold water: Staying hydrated is so important when it’s so hot out. Pack your back with several water bottles filled with ice water and offer it frequently to your kids!
- Snacks: Swimming can take a lot of energy. Keeping snacks on hand can give kids the boost they need after swimming. Some foods, like fruits and applesauce, can also help rehydrate your kiddos in the heat.
- Towels: Kids can get cold very quickly. Make sure to pack plenty of soft, absorbent towels to help your kids dry off and get warm after their dip in the pool.
2. Check Pool Temperatures
Kids can get extremely cold when they step out of the water. It may not seem like a big deal to us, but a child’s small mass compared to their surface area can cause them to develop hypothermia much quicker than us adults. This and their immature ability to regulate body temperature in young babies and toddlers makes them susceptible.
Before getting into the pool with your kids, it’s always a good idea to check the temperature. Keep in mind that a normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees F. So even though that 80 degree water may feel warm to you, it may still be too cold for your child.
Try to limit time in the pool to short bursts, and wrap up in a towel in between. Watch for blue lips, shivering, and drowsiness. These may also show that you need to take a break from the pool and warm up!