It’s a warm summer day and you’re at the beach or the pool with your kids. Your cell phone rings. You answer it, shifting your focus from your kids to the conversation. Good idea? Not at all, according to Safe Kids Middlesex County. It could even be deadly.
Children can get into trouble in seconds when around water, so Safe Kids Middlesex County recommends that parents actively supervise – with their eyes on their kids at all times – when they are in or near water.
Drowning is the second highest cause of unintentional death for children ages one to four and 10 to 14. Approximately three out of four pool submersion deaths and three out of five 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,” says Diana Starace, coordinator of Safe Kids Middlesex County and the Injury Prevention Program at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJ). “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 Middlesex County recommends these precautions:
- Actively supervise children in and around water. Don’t leave, not 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 four, 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.
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. When there are children in or near the water, adults should take turns serving as the designated “Water Watcher,” paying undivided attention.
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.
Kiddie pools should be emptied and stored out of reach when not in use.
Courtesy of Diana Starace, injury prevention coordinator at the Level I Trauma Center at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and Safe Kids Middlesex County coordinator. For more information about water safety, call Safe Kids Safe Kids Middlesex County at (732) 418-8026 or visit www.safekids.org.