For most families, summer means exploring the outdoors, swimming in a refreshing pool, and making s’mores over a fire pit. Having fun is the main goal, but safety must come first. These tips will help keep kids of all ages safe this summer.
Water requires adults to take extra precautions. Drowning is one of the leading causes of injury and death for kids ages one to 14, and three children die every day as a result of drowning, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Gary Kirkilas, a pediatrician at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, and Roy Jedeikin, medical director of the Phoenix Children’s Care Network, recommend these steps to prevent drownings:
- When it comes to supervision, think of the three C’s of supervision: constant, close, capable. Drowning can occur in a matter of seconds. The time it takes to make a quick trip to the bathroom is enough time for a child to drown. Drowning is often silent, which means a capable adult needs to be paying close attention and staying within reach, even when a lifeguard is present.
- Supervise diving areas. Head and neck injuries can happen when children learn to dive in open water (lakes and rivers). Never allow a child to jump into water in which they cannot see the bottom, or dive into water of an unknown depth or into the shallow end of a pool.
- Be the pool boss. Choose a few adults to take turns supervising children. Put away phones, avoid alcohol, give children your full attention, and stay within touch distance of young kids so you can reach them quickly if they begin to struggle.
- Life jackets are lifesavers. Forgoing the Coast Guard mandate that children under the age of 13 wear a lifejacket while boating may be tempting, but statistics clearly show life jackets save lives. Eighty percent of all boating-related deaths were the result of drowning. The American Academy of Pediatrics says blow-up water wings should never be used as life jackets or life preservers. For children one year and older, opt for a life-jacket that looks like a vest, has a U.S. Coast Guard-approval label, and is a fit-by-weight personal flotation device instead. A puddle jumpers may be a safe alternative if it has the "approved by the U.S. Coast Guard" label.
- Get CPR certified. Adults should keep their CPR skills fresh in case of a submersion event.
- Use a pool fence—and make sure no one ever props it open.
- Seek medical attention immediately. If your child has a submersion event (e.g., slipped under the water and needed rescuing), watch for symptoms of a drowning injury and seek medical attention. Symptoms can include difficulty breathing, pale skin, sleepiness, and coughing. Do not second-guess yourself if you have any concerns.