Water Safety Gives Kids a Lifetime of Summer Fun

July 13, 2012

 As the weather gets warmer, the pool covers get pulled back and families start going to the beach for the weekend. But it’s important to keep in mind that water can be dangerous. For toddlers and teenagers, especially, parents need to know the facts about staying safe in the water. Both these groups are at the highest risk for water-related injuries and death.

“Most injuries we see are in the summertime, not in the winter. The bulk of them are outside, where people are enjoying the nice weather,” said Anne Brayer, M.D., pediatrician in Emergency Medicine at University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and co-director of Injury Free Coalition for Kids, based out of Golisano Children’s Hospital at URMC.

“But it’s important to realize the incidents coming through the ED are just the serious ones.”

More injuries that aren’t as serious such as minor falls and accidents don’t necessarily get reported, Brayer said, but could easily be dangerous given different circumstances. These minor accidents can also be averted using the same prevention techniques as the more major accidents.

PREVENTION

Prevention is the best way to keep accidents from happening in and around water. Brayer advised parents to have their eyes on their kids at all times, especially with smaller children. “The misconception is that people think (an incident will be) a noisy event,” said Brayer, “That’s not true. Parents of children who have drowned universally say that they heard nothing. Drownings happen because nobody sees the incident or is close enough to help the person.”

In the Rochester area, swimming pools are the most likely place for a water-related injury to occur. To keep young children safe while playing at home and in the pool, Brayer advised the following:

·         Toddlers are very curious and investigate their environment, but they typically don’t have any swimming skills. Keep an eye on children 3 years old and younger to make sure they aren’t near any standing water. This includes swimming pools, ponds, inflatable kiddy pools, and even bathtubs.

·         Be within touching distance of children 3 years old and younger while swimming. Never overestimate a toddler’s swimming skills. Kids this age often don’t know when they’re in trouble or what to do when they need help.

·         Keep older children in view when they are in the water, and be able to react in the event of an emergency. Be at the poolside and make sure you are always aware of what your children are doing.

·         Don’t be distracted with reading or talking on the phone when your kids are swimming. Drowning takes a matter of minutes, and your main job is to watch your child in the water.

·         Be a responsible pool owner. Inflatable and temporary pools need to be taken just as seriously as permanent in-ground and above-ground pools. Put up a fence around your pool to make sure your children and neighbor’s children can’t swim without adult supervision.

·         If you own a backyard pool, make sure you have CPR training.

Children cannot be expected to understand how dangerous swimming and playing in water can be. Supervision is key to preventing water-based injuries and drowning.

TEACHING

As children grow older and become teenagers they tend to become more confident in their swimming abilities. Adult supervision isn’t always a possibility when teenagers want to go on a beach trip with friends, and teenagers sometimes overestimate their capabilities or, according to Brayer, “Teenagers engage in risk-taking behavior that can lead to injury and death.” Here are some things to keep in mind and to pass on to your teen:

·         Don’t put yourself in a position where you can’t get help. Only swim in supervised areas when a lifeguard is on duty.

·         Abstain from drinking if you are not the legal age. In 40-50 percent of teenage drownings, alcohol is a major factor.

·         Emphasize with your teen the importance of taking responsibility for yourself. Make sure they understand that the consequences of their actions for themselves and those around them outweigh the brief excitement of risky behavior.

Water-related injuries can be prevented by taking the right precautions. To learn more about water safety, visit http://www.poolsafely.gov/.

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