Summer Pool Safety

IMG_1992After a long winter, summer is finally here. In a lot of places though, warm days change pretty quickly into blistering hot days, and staying cool means finding water. Whether splash pad, pool or beach, though, water is also a huge risk, particularly for children. Here are some tips to keep your family safe this summer.

First, if you have a pool in your backyard, you absolutely NEED a 4-foot or higher fence all the way around with a self-closing gate that locks. Most zoning laws will require this, but even if your pool is grandfathered in this is a good idea. It should always be locked when not in use. For owners of both pools and spas, the drain needs to have a drain safety system installed. Without one, the suction from the drain can keep even adults under the water.

If you are out enjoying the water, your baby will need one-on-one adult supervision at all times. Even if your child has had swim lessons, is wearing a life jacket or is in another flotation device, or is just hanging out playing near water, you need to be right there. Often when there are several adults present, it’s easy for everyone to assume someone else is watching the kids. Use a whistle, float, or other item around the pool and have the individual who is watching the children hold that item while they are the “lifeguard.” If they need to answer the phone, leave or attend to another child, have them hand off the responsibility to someone else. Drowning is silent. It’s essential that someone have eyes on the water at all times.

For even younger babies and children (generally 6 months and older), swim lessons are an excellent idea. You will still need to provide direct supervision whenever water is near, but lessons can help children learn to be comfortable in the water and stay safe if an accident were to occur. Water survival courses for babies and toddlers may even be available in your area.

Teaching your children basic pool safety rules is important as well. Knowing that the pool is off limits without an adult and that no running is allowed on the pool deck is something kids should learn before ever entering a pool.

Knowing the signs of drowning and secondary drowning is crucial. Drowning is the second most common cause of accidental death of 1-14 year-olds. Drowning is silent. If a person is drowning, they won’t be able to yell, splash, or wave their arms. They will be under the water and unable to attract attention.

If your child accidentally falls into the water, she may also be susceptible to near drowning, or secondary drowning. This happens hours after the original incident because water left in the lungs causes edema (swelling). Some symptoms to watch for are persistent coughing, chest pain, shortness of breath, lethargy, mood change, and/or fever. This requires medical attention as soon as you notice any symptoms.

Finally, know child and infant CPR. Every parent should take a CPR course and stay up to date on the certification since the science and knowledge about how to best administer emergency care  changes as we learn more about the body. Find a CPR course near you, or even take the course at home with this kit from the American Heart Association.

Please enjoy your summer and make the most of these beautiful days. Just make sure to keep your family safe, particularly around water.

Meaghan Howard is a mom to two little boys, ages 3 and 6. She’s currently enjoying the expat life in Japan.

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