Infants and toddlers are the most vulnerable, but older children are at risk, too, in bathtubs, swimming pools, the lake, even the toilet bowl and water-filled buckets around the home. There are some simple rules you can follow that will help protect children when they are in or near any water:
- Never leave a child alone near water, even for a few seconds – to answer the phone, doorbell, go to the bathroom or even help another child.
- Always designate an adult to watch children at play and while in the pool.
- Swim only in authorized areas, preferably with lifeguards, such as swimming pools, beaches, etc.
- Always swim with a buddy. Never allow anyone to swim alone.
- Ensure everyone in the family learns to swim well – enroll children in age-appropriate water orientation and learn-to-swim courses.
And don’t assume just because a child knows how to swim, there is no risk for drowning, especially in open water such as a beach, lake, river, creek or pond. Swimming in open water is not the same as swimming in a pool.
Children need to be aware of uneven surfaces, currents, undertow and the impact of changing weather. Children also should never dive into water where the depth is unknown.
For infants, toddlers and weak swimmers, a capable adult swimmer should be within arm’s reach to provide “touch supervision.” And it’s a good idea to invest in child flotation devices that keep the child’s head up and face out of the water (not water wings, as they are not effective protection against drowning).
For open water, invest in proper-fitting Coast Guard-approved life vests and make sure your kids wear them. While not always comfortable, they are proven life savers. Remember, too, to apply sunscreen to provide protection against sunburn and to help prevent the risk of skin cancer.
Year-around, children take a lot of supervision, care and patience, but there is an even greater need to pay attention during summer. Don’t let your guard down, even for a moment.