Water Safety for Children

At Home and at the Pool:

Water safety precautions start in the home. The bathroom is full of dangers for youngsters. Never leave a child unattended in the bathroom, especially while bathing-even if the child appears to be well propped in a safety tub or bath ring. Put away all hair dryers, and other electrical appliances to avoid the risk of electrocution. Hot water can also be dangerous, particularly for kids younger than five, who have thinner skin than older kids and adults. They burn easier because of the thickness of their skin. You can reduce the risk of scalding by turning the water heater thermostat in your home down to 120 degrees (49 degrees C), and by testing the water with your wrist or elbow before placing your child in the bath. Outside the home, being aware can help prevent accidents. Find out where the water hazards in your neighborhood are. Who has a pool or water spa? Where are the retaining ponds, or creeks that may attract kids?  Let your neighbors know that you have a young child (children), and ask them to lock their gates.

Having a Pool at Home:

Having a pool, pond, spa, or hot tub on your property is a tremendous responsibility when it comes to safety. Hot tubs may feel great to adults, but kids can become dangerously overheated in them and even drown. It’s best not to let them use the hot tub at all. Having a fence (one that goes directly around the pool or spa) between the water and your house is the best safety investment you can make and will help prevent pool-related drownings. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, fences should meet these standards:

-Fences should stand at least 4 feet (130 centimeters) high with no foot or handrails for kids to climb on.

-The slats should be less than four inches (110 centimeters) apart so a child can’t get through, or if chain link, should have no opening larger than 1 3/4 inches (50 centimeters).

-Gates should be self-closing and self-locking, and latch should be out of kid’s reach.

You can buy other devices, such as pool covers and alarms, but these haven’t proved effective against drowning for very young children, so fencing remains your best measure of protection.

Making Kids Water Wise:

It’s important to teach your kids proper pool and spa behavior, and make sure that you take the right precautions, too. Let kids know that they should contact the lifeguard, or an adult if there’s an emergency.

Kids shouldn’t run or push around the pool, and should never dive in areas that are not marked for diving.  If the weather turns bad (especially lightning), they should get out of the pool immediately.

Above all, supervise your children at all times. Don’t assume that just because your child took swimming lessons, or is using a flotation device such as an inner tube, or an inflatable raft that there’s no drowning risk. If you’re at a party, it’s especially easy to become distracted, so designate an adult who will be responsible for watching the children. Make sure anyone who’s babysitting knows your rules for the pool. Have a cell or cordless telephone with you during swim times. Seconds count during an emergency (911 should be called immediately). Keep conversations to a minimum when supervising children. Remember  your first priority is the children’s safety.

Once you’ve installed all your safety equipment, review your home for water hazards, and plan what to do in an emergency. Learn CPR (all caregivers should learn it, too), and make sure you have safety equipment, such as flotation devices, that are in good shape, and are close at hand when boating or swimming.

Post emergency numbers on all telephones,  and make sure all caregivers are aware of their locations. After your kids are finished playing in the pool for the day, be sure to remove all pool toys, and put them away. Children have drowned trying to retrieve playthings left in the pool.

Always be concerned about water safety, even after swim season has passed.  In addition, be cautious of pool covers, children may attempt to walk on top of  pools during the winter months, and get trapped underneath a pool cover. Icy pools, ponds, and streams are tempting play areas for children, so keep your pool  gates locked at all times. Teach your kids to stay away from water without your supervision.

Once you’ve installed all your safety equipment, review your home for water hazards, and plan what to do in an emergency. Learn CPR (other caregivers should learn it, too), and make sure you have safety equipment, such as emergency flotation devices, that are in good shape, and are close at hand when boating and swimming.

Post emergency numbers on all phones, and make sure all caregivers are aware of their locations.  After your kids are finished playing in the pool for the day, be sure to remove all pool toys, and put them away. Children have drowned while trying to retrieve playthings left in the pool.

At Lakes, Ponds, or Beaches: 

First, teach kids never to swim alone. Using the buddy system means there’s always someone looking out for you. Make sure your kids understand that swimming in a pool is different from swimming in a lake or the ocean. There are different hazards for each. Here are some tips:

At the lake or Pond:

-Don’t let kids swim without adult supervision.  Water may be shallow near the bank, but depth may increase sharply further out from shore.

– Ponds and lakes may hide jagged rocks, broken glass, or trash.

-Make sure children wear foot protection (even in the water).

-Watch out for weeds, and grass that could entangle them.

-Most boating accidents, particular among teenagers, are related to alcohol. When adults are drinking alcohol, assign a designated driver. Make sure teens know about the dangers of drinking alcohol, on and off the water.

At the Beach:

Teach children to always swim when, and where a lifeguard is on duty. They shouldn’t swim close to piers or pilings because sudden water movement may cause swimmers to collide with them.

-Unlike the calm waters of a swimming pool, the beach has special dangers like current and tides. Check with the lifeguard when you arrive to find out about water conditions.

-Don’t allow children to swim in large waves and undertow, and tell  them never to stand with their back to the water because a sudden wave can easily knock them over.

-Teach children that if they’re caught in a rip current or undertow, they should swim parallel to the shore, or tread water until a lifeguard arrives.

-The stings of a jellyfish, or Portuguese man-of-war can be painful. Tell kids to avoid them in the water, and tell an adult right away if they’re stung.

Whether at the lake, or the beach, teach your child (children) during bad weather, especially lightning.

Water Park Safety:

Water parks can be  a lot of fun for children (adults, too), as long as you keep safety in mind.  Before you go, make sure the park is monitored by qualified lifeguards. Once there, read all posted signs before letting your child on any rides (many rides have age, height, weight, or health requirements, and each has a different depth of water). Teach your children to follow all rules and directions, such as walking instead of running, and always going down the water slide in the right position-feet first and face up. A Coast Guard approved life jacket is a good idea, too. Know which rides are appropiate for your child’s age and development. For example, wave pools can quickly go from calm to rough, putting even a good swimmer in over his or her head. Younger children can be intimidated by older kid’s splashing and roughhousing.

What to Do in an Emergency:

Whenever a child is missing, always check the pool first. Survival depends on a quick rescue, and restarting breathing as soon as possbile.

-If you find a child in the water, immediately get the child out while calling lodly for help. If someone else is available, have them call 911. Check to ensure the child’s air passages are clear. If the child is not breathing, CPR should be initiated as necessary. This is best done by someone who is trained in CPR. When the emergency number is called, follow the instructions the emergency operators provide.

-If you think the child may have suffered a neck injury, such as with diving, then keep the child on his or her back, and brace the neck and shoulders with your hands and forearms to help keep the neck immobilized, until emergency help arrives. This type of immobilization minimizes further injury to the spine and is best performed by someone who is trained in the technique. Don’t let the child move. Speak in calm tones to keep the child comforted. Continue to watch for adequate breathing.

Recreational Water Illnesses:

Recreational water illnesses happen due to contact with contaminated water from recreational water sources like a swimming pool, hot tub, water fountain, water park, lake or ocean. It is usually spread by swallowing, inhaling or coming into contact with water that is contaminated with germs. Most reported infections people get are diarrhea related, and often are due to the parasite Cryptosporidium, which normally lives in the gasrointestinal tract and is found in feces. Other infections can  affect the skin, eyes, ears, respiratory tract. Kids, pregnant women, and people with a weakened immune system can be the most affected by these infections. Although chlorine treatment in water kills germs that cause these illnesses, it can take time depending on the type of germ.

A few tips to prevent getting a recreational water illness:

-Kids with diarrhea should not swim.

-Take kids on bathroom breaks often, and change swim diapers often (not at the poolside).

-If you are taking a baby in the water who is not potty-trained, use a swim diaper.

-Wash hands after using the bathroom or changing diapers.

-Avoid swallowing, or getting water in your mouth.

-Keep the swimming water clean by showering with soap before entering the pool.

-After swimming, dry ears well with a towel/washcloth, tilting each ear down to help water drip out of the ear canal. This can help prevent swimmer’s ear (an ear infection).

Water Safety Tips for Babies:

Drowning, although the biggest worry, isn’t the only a concern when babies are exposed to water. Infants are particularly susceptible to diseases that can be transmitted in water. After introducing an infant to a pool, dry the child’s ears carefully with a towel or cotton ball to help prevent swimmer’s ear. After a dip, wash your baby with a mild soap, and shampoo the hair to remove pool chemicals.

Water temperatures below 85 degrees (29 degrees C) can cause babies to lose heat quickly, putting them at risk for hypothermia (when body temperature falls below normal). Shivering infants or those whose lips are turning blue should be removed from the water immediately, dried, and kept in a towel. Infants can also spread disease in a pool. Cryptosporidium can be released into pools by babies with leaky diapers. When swallowed by other swimmers, the parasite can cause severe diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and dehydration.

The safest thing to do is to keep your baby out of public pools until the child is potty-trained. If you decide to take the baby in for a dip, use waterproof diapers only, and change diapers frequently (not at the poolside!), washing your child well each time. Keep any child with diarrhea or a gastrointestinal illness out of the pool during the illness and for two weeks afterward. Provide frequent bathroom breaks for kids who are already potty-trained. Water play can be a great source of fun and exercise. You’ll enjoy the water experience more by knowing, and practicing these safety precautions.


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