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Reduce Kids’ Risk of Drowning with Water Safety Tips

Mar 31, 2016 10:26AM ● Published by Clare Heekin Lynch

Spring is here, and that means that kids are gearing up for fun in the sun. It won’t be long before families will be going on beach vacations, enjoying play time at local parks, and swimming and sliding in local pools.

But all of this fun also means increased risk of injuries, many involving the water. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drowning is the main cause of unintentional injury and death among children between ages 1-4, with young boys making up 76 percent of those statistics. The CDC considers ‘unintentional injuries’ to be predictable and preventable when proper safety precautions are taken; they are not accidents.

“On average, more than 1,000 children drown each year, and more than 5,000 are seen in emergency rooms for injuries from near-drowning incidents,” said Kristen Urso, M.Ed, community program specialist, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, and program coordinator, Safe Kids Allegheny County. “Approximately 400 children age 14 and younger drown each year in pools and spas, with about three-quarters of pool submersion deaths occurring at a home.”

Safe Kids Allegheny County, led by Children’s Hospital, is a part of the larger coalition, Safe Kids Worldwide. The group provides dedicated and caring staff, operation support, and other resources to assist in achieving the common goal of keeping kids safe. The alliance implements evidence-based programs such as car seat checkups, sports clinics and water safety workshops, which include techniques including how to float and tread water, to help parents and caregivers prevent childhood injuries.

Water Safety Tips
“To prevent drowning, all parents and children should learn survival swimming skills through formal swimming lessons, which include learning how to right oneself after falling into water, as well as how to float or tread water,” said Urso. “Introduce your child to water around 6 months of age, and start lessons when you feel your child is ready.”

And it’s not just swimming pools that require parents’ vigilance when it comes to keeping kids safe. “Kids can drown in only one inch of water,” Urso continued. “Splash pads are becoming more popular, and slips and falls provide another level of danger to warm weather fun.”

So what should you do to keep your little ones safe this summer? Safe Kids offers the following tips:

LOCK
•    Put up a fence that is at least four feet high and surrounds all sides of the pool or spa. The fence should have a gate with a lock that closes and latches by itself.
•    Use door, gate and pool alarms.
•    Teach children not to play or swim near pool or spa drains.
•    Use approved safety drain covers and back-up devices.

LOOK
•    Always watch children when they are in or near water.
•    When you are watching children, don’t be distracted by phone calls, text messages, reading or talking to others.
•    Watch children, even if they know how to swim.
•    Children who can’t swim, or can’t swim well, should be within your reach.
•    Keep a phone near you–use it only to call for help if there is an emergency.
•    If a child is missing, check the water first.

LEARN
•    Both adults and children should learn how to swim.
•    Learn when to use U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets.
•    Learn how to use rescue equipment.
•    Learn CPR.

Other ways to prevent drowning include avoiding alcohol use while swimming and supervising children properly.

“It’s a sad statistic that most children were being watched by an adult just before they drowned,” said Urso. “Actively supervise your kids whenever around the water—even if a lifeguard is present. Do not just drop your kids off at the public pool—designate a responsible adult to supervise. And, along with water safety, teach your kids to watch out for sunburn and heat exhaustion, and not to drink the pool water.”

To learn more about keeping your kids safe in the water as well as in a variety of other situations, visit www.safekids.org.

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