After car accidents, accidental drowning is a leading cause of death among children. In fact, drowning is the second most common cause of death for children under the age of five.
Of course, death by drowning isn’t the only risk that children experience when they go swimming. From predatory biting fish to brain-eating amoebas and swimmer’s itch caused by fowl feces in the water, there are countless potential threats involved in swimming. If your little one is headed out into the water anytime soon, here are some critical safety tips:
1. Hold infants too young to sit up on their own or wear a personal floatation device. Arms get tired, and perhaps you wanted to go out deeper to swim. However, little ones can easily lose their balance, even in shallow water on the shore, and their life could be endangered. Bring a friend or family member to give you respite or take your child onto the beach or the edge of the pool if you need a rest.
2. If you are monitoring more than one child or will be in any kind of watercraft, the children should be wearing a personal flotation device. What do you do if two of the children in your care go underwater at the same time? How can you help one child if your hands are already full with another? The best way to ensure everyone is safe is to put all of your young children into personal flotation devices.
3. Even if you’re in a shallow pool or at a splash pad, keep children under 5 years old within arm’s reach. It only takes a second for children to lose their balance, slip, or accidentally inhale a lungful of water. If you’re not right there to intervene immediately, it could be too late.
4. Swim where there’s a lifeguard. Even if you know how to swim and perform CPR, it can be terrifying to have to rescue your own child or perform CPR yourself. Having a trained professional at the beach or pool where you’re swimming provides a second set of eyes and also a steady set of hands in case of an emergency.
5. Enroll your child in swimming classes as soon as possible. Many community pools and schools offer youth swimming classes for kids as young as 18 months. Whether it’s a parent-and-me style class where you hold your children and they acclimate to being in the water or a group class where the children are in the water with a teacher and other kids, these classes increase your children’s comfort level in the water and familiarity with critical water skills, such as holding their breath while underwater and floating.
6. Consider emergency swimming classes for special needs children. Swimming lessons are particular critical for special needs or autistic children, who may have natural attraction to water and penchant for wandering. These classes focus on water survival and often include practicing techniques while fully clothed and wearing shoes. Far too many cases of wandering special needs children result in drowning; emergency or survival swimming classes can be the difference between a scare and a tragedy for your family.
7. Keep your pool locked up at all times. If you have a pool at your home, it is imperative that you adhere to proper safety protocol. This includes installing an above-ground pool on a deck that can only be accessed by one point that is kept locked unless an adult is out there or a ground-level pool with a complete fence around it to prevent unintentional access by minor children. Not only are your own children and pets at risk of falling into and drowning in an unfenced pool, but so are neighborhood children and strangers.
8. Treat water in your pool, lake, or swimming hole for infectious bacteria. Swimmer’s ear sounds like a minor condition, but it can pose a real health risk for children. If you’re not able to, because the water is publicly owned, having an over-the-counter treatment available to remove water and prevent swimmer’s ear can do a lot to prevent ear infections and swimmer’s ear as the result of trapped water.
9. There have been some real advancements in this area recently. For example, acQuaMD uses vibrations to remove trapped water within the ear canal painlessly and without the use of antibiotics. If your children are prone to having water trapped in their ears after swimming, this device can prevent future trips to the doctor for swimming-related ear issues.
10. Monitor your children for symptoms after swimming in untreated water. Some waterborne-illnesses such as amoeba and viruses, can be impossible to detect before getting into a natural body of water like a lake or pond. If you or your children have been swimming in natural bodies of water, monitor everyone closely for symptoms like fever, headaches, and earaches. If these symptoms present, make an appointment with your family doctor as soon as possible. Better safe than sorry!
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