As the summer heat intensifies, you and your children may take to the water to beat the heat. After all, what goes better with fun and sun than water? Pools, sprinklers, lakes, rivers – there is lots of water and plenty of ways to enjoy it.
But kids and water can also be a dangerous mix, so be sure to follow some simple safety tips to help keep your chill summer vibes cool.
“While infants are more likely to drown in a bathtub inside the home, children age 1-4 are more likely to drown at home in a pool or spa,” said Stefanie Clarke, a pediatric nurse practitioner with OSF HealthCare. “Children older than 4, specifically teens, are more likely to drown in a natural body of water.”
Drowning is the second leading cause of death for children age 1-14. Studies show that 69% of children who drowned in a pool were not expected to be in the water at that time, which makes the presence of a pool a constant source of possible danger.
“At that age, from 1-4, children are naturally curious, which can lead them into unsafe situations,” Stefanie said.
That is why any pool or hot tub at your home should have a barrier or fence that keeps young ones out unless someone can supervise them.
Tips to keep your child safe
Assign a water watcher
The water watcher needs to be a designated person with no distractions or alcohol.
“Drowning is very silent, and kids just go under,” Stefanie said. “If a kid is drowning, they’re not splashing and yelling help, so the water watcher needs to pay attention. If you’re having families getting together, maybe you take turns and hand off water watcher responsibilities or hire a designated lifeguard, because it’s easy to get distracted talking with other people.”
Get CPR training
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training will help you know what to do if someone, like a drowning victim, loses consciousness.
Use life vests
Life vests are crucial for children who aren’t strong swimmers in natural bodies of water and pools. A person’s vest should fit snugly and be certified by the U.S. Coast Guard. If you’re boating, everyone should wear a life vest, regardless of swimming ability. (If you’re boating, you should also avoid alcohol.)
Enroll your child in swimming lessons or water skills classes
Swimming lessons can help children develop their water skills. Most children are ready for swimming lessons by age 4.
Toddler classes are a good idea for both young children and their parents to learn good safety lessons, like always asking for permission before getting into the water.
Check the water
If you’re planning to get in a natural body of water, check the water for anything like branches, rocks or thick weeds that may trip your children or pull them under the surface.
“Also, check the temperature of the water,” Stefanie said. “Hypothermia is a concern. Kids have a harder time than adults regulating their body temperature.”
Beware the danger of pool covers
Another reason why an effective fence or barrier is necessary for your pool is the pool cover itself.
“Pool covers can be a risk,” Stefanie said. “Kids can think it’s a hard surface, try to walk on it and get trapped under the pool cover.”