It’s that time of year again: sizzling summer heat has been driving people coast to coast into lakes, beaches, and backyard pools.
Drowning deaths can often be prevented.
A child sneaks out an unlocked door and Grandma doesn’t notice for a few minutes.
A water wing slips off and the child glides under.
It my not be a massive swimming pool — it could be a bathtub, a ditch, a plastic backyard blow-up pool just like yours.
A mother turns her head for a moment to answer the phone, text or go to the restroom.
The responsible aduls beside the crowded pool, lake, or beach take their eyes off the child for just a few seconds.
Usually there is little to no splash, just a slide under the water and a quick gasp for breath as water floods starving lungs.
It is a silent killer.
A few seconds and you lose your child forever.
What You Can Do To Prevent Drowning:
- Learn to Swim. The American Association of Pediatrics urges parents of children age one and up to enroll their children in swimming lessons. However, this won’t “drown-proof” a child. Even when children have had formal swimming lessons, constant, careful supervision is necessary when children are in or near the water. According to the CDC, participation in formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by 88% among children aged 1 to 4 years.
- Do Not Use Air-Filled or Foam Toys. Never use water wings, noodles, or inner-tubes in place of life jackets (personal flotation devices). These toys are not designed to keep swimmers safe. They can slip or fall off. A child can easily flip upside down and be unable to right himself.
- Always Supervise When in or Around the Water. Designate a responsible adult to watch young children while in the bath and all children swimming or playing in or around water. Supervisors of infants, children, and weak swimmers should provide “touch supervision” and always be within arms reach. Adults should not be involved in any other distracting activity (such as reading, talking/texting on the phone, or mowing the lawn) while supervising children.
- Install Barriers Around Water. Install a pool fence around an in ground swimming pool. Make sure waterfront property is fenced in and secured. Always ensure sliding glass doors, exterior doors and windows are locked. Consider pool alarms or a rigid pool cover as another line of defense. Do not leave toys in or next to a pool, filled tub, or body of water.
- Buddy System. Always swim with a buddy. Select swimming sites that have lifeguards whenever possible.
- Learn Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). In the time it might take for paramedics to arrive, your CPR skills could make a difference in someone’s life.
It doesn’t matter if your kids eat high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, and drink from plastic water bottles. They’ll live if they watch too much tv or if they’re addicted to the Real Housewives or watch movies with inappropriate violence or language. Breast vs. bottle, cry it out vs. rock to sleep, vaccinate vs. delay — these over-debated and proselytized issues will not make a dramatic difference in our children’s life expectancies. But please, please, teach your children how to swim or they can die.
I’ve heard all the excuses as to why parents don’t enroll their kids in swim lessons:
- But they are afraid of the water. That won’t keep them away from it or prevent them from accidentally falling in it.
- They’ll cry/scream. They will get over it. And so will you.
- It costs too much money and/or we just don’t have the time. If you have the time and money to shuttle your kids to dance, gymnastics, soccer, and karate you can get them to swim lessons.
- But we don’t have a pool. Chances are there is at least one in your neighborhood or you live near a body of water or you take trips to the lake or the beach.
- We forgot this year but we’ll do it next summer. You may not have until next summer….
All parents know to teach their kids how to look both ways before crossing the street, not to talk to strangers, to stay away from the stove, not to play with matches. But far too many loving and otherwise competent parents neglect to teach their children one of the most basic survival skills.
Be vigilant. Be safe. I beg you, I implore you, please…you MUST teach your children how to swim. Give them a fighting chance.
To find swim lessons near you:
American Red Cross
Infant Swimming Resource