…no matter the body of water
by Dr. Ryan L. Redman, MD
It’s summertime, and children everywhere can’t wait for that first dip in the pool or for that first chance to hit the lake. Water sports are a great way to enjoy the outdoors and get some exercise! But how do you keep your child safe while enjoying the water?
Each year, drowning, near-drownings and water sports injuries send thousands of children to hospital emergency rooms, including East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. Diving accidents make up a huge portion of these injuries, while fatigue, lack of proper swim instructions and water vehicle accidents also are factors.
Most accidents could be prevented with increased supervision. “Nothing, not even swimming lessons or life preservers, takes the place of good parental supervision around the water,” said Dr. Ryan Redman, pediatric emergency specialist at Children’s Hospital. “In my career, I have never seen a near drowning that could not have been prevented with better supervision.”
Whether it’s the backyard pool, the lake or the ocean on vacation, each different body of water has the same basic rules to keep children safe. Following a general set of rules will help keep children safely swimming and having fun in any water-related situation.
In my career, I have never seen a near drowning that could not have been prevented with better supervision.
Water safety rules
- Never leave a child alone in or near water at the pool, lake, bathtub or beach. An accident can occur in seconds. If you must leave even for a moment, take your child with you.
- Make sure adults watching young children near water know CPR and can rescue a child if necessary.
- Surround pools – on all four sides – with a sturdy five-foot fence.
- Make sure the gates self-close and self-latch at a height children can’t reach.
- Keep rescue equipment such as a shepherd’s hook (a long pole with a hook on the end), life preserver and telephone near the pool.
- Insist children wear a life preserver or flotation device. The US Coast Guard estimates that 9 of 10 drowning victims are not wearing one.
- Avoid inflatable swimming aids such as “floaties” or “water-wings.” They are not a substitute for approved life vests and give a false sense of security.
- Enroll children over age one in swimming lessons taught by qualified instructors, but remember lessons don’t make children “drown-proof.”
- Never consume alcohol when operating a boat, swimming or during water activities, and don’t allow your child to ride on any water vehicle where you suspect alcohol consumptions will take place.
- Teach children these four key rules:
- Always swim with a buddy.
- Don’t dive into unknown bodies of water. Jump feet first to avoid hitting your head on shallow bottom.
- Don’t jump or push others into the water.
- Be prepared for an emergency.
Dr. Ryan L Redman, MD practices pediatric emergency medicine and pediatrics at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. For more information about water safety, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics website (www.aap.org), the National Safety Council’s website (www.nsc.org) or the Children’s Hospital website (www.etch.com).