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Prevent drowning: Water safety tips for parents and their kids

June 22, 2011

Staff Report

Water wisdom: Constant supervision is key

Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional death of children age 14 and younger, taking the lives of nearly 900 children each year. Most occur in swimming pools, but lakes, rivers and oceans can also be dangerous. Children playing in smaller bodies of water, such as wading pools, bathtubs, buckets, toilets, spas and hot tubs should also be supervised.

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Safe Kids Georgia are partnering to encourage parents to become “Water Watchers” this summer. Although many parents are nearby when their children are in or around the water, most do not devote 100 percent of their attention to supervising playtime.

Recent research by Johnson & Johnson shows that 88 percent of children who drowned were under adult supervision and that parents are overconfident about their children’s safety and abilities around water. Because drowning can occur silently and in a matter of seconds, at least one parent or adult should always be a completely focused “Water Watcher,” dedicated to monitoring children playing in the water.

In addition to constant supervision, parents should also keep in mind the following water safety tips:

- Practice “touch supervision” by keeping children within reasonable reach at all times. It is especially vital to eep children in baby bath seats and rings within arm’s reach. Because drownings often occur silently, “touch supervision” can save lives.

- Enroll your children in swimming lessons around age 4, but do not assume swimming lessons make your child “drownproof.” There is no substitute for active supervision.

- Tell children never to run, push or jump on others around water.

- Eliminate all potential drowning hazards such as empty buckets, large containers and wading pools. Keep toilet lids shut and use toilet locks.

- Make sure children swim only in designated safe areas of rivers, lakes and oceans. Outfit children in a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal safety device around oceans, rivers, lakes or when participating in water sports. “Water wings” or inflatable tubes do not replace life jackets. Most states require children younger than 10 to wear an appropriately-sized flotation device when on a boat or personal watercraft.

- Keep rescue equipment, a telephone and emergency numbers by the pool.

- Teach children to never dive into a river, lake, ocean or body of water less than 9 feet deep.

- Never allow children age 14 and younger to operate a personal watercraft.

- 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 5 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 with a single drain 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.

- Do not leave toys in or near the pool, where they could attract unsupervised children. For extra protection, consider a pool alarm and alarms on the doors, windows and gates leading to the pool.

- Remember: inflatable swimming aids, such as “water wings,” are not flotation devices and do not prevent drowning.

Visit choa.org for more about pool safety.

From the June 22-28 issue

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