A few weeks ago, I was on the phone poolside at our local YMCA. My two children were playing on the steps in the shallow end, forbidden to leave the edge. I was listening to my colleagues discuss some work-related issue when my five-year-old son headed for the deep end and cannon-balled in. All sorts of panic ensued. The lifeguard dove in to “rescue” him while I yelled.
My son can swim. In fact, he’s a pretty strong swimmer, having had lessons from the age of two. After I apologized to the dripping lifeguard, I sat my son aside and repeated the rules we have around water: Never go in alone. Do exactly what your parents say. No roughhousing. Never dive in unless you know how deep the water is.
Then I put my phone down and stopped violating my own rule: Always pay attention to your kids around water. It’s a good rule. Drowning is the leading cause of death from injury among children ages 1 to 4 years. More than half of the nearly 6,000 people who visit the emergency room after non-fatal drownings are young children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Where do children drown? Typically in big swimming pools, though up to 11 percent of child drowning deaths happen in portable kiddie pools, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Many of these deaths and injuries are preventable—and one of the solutions might surprise you: Teach even very young kids to swim. Swimming lessons can reduce children’s drowning risk by up to 88 percent, according to one study. The American Academy of Pediatrics, which for years eschewed recommending swimming lessons for kids four and under, now recommends lessons for children as young as one.
Other things you can do to reduce the risk of drowning:
1. Watch children like a hawk. Kids can drown quickly and quietly. When you’re watching them, stay off the phone, stop multitasking and pay attention.
2. Block access to the pool. If your pool doesn’t have an isolation fence, get one. Also consider pool covers for both big pools and portable ones—they can keep toddlers from falling in. One study found that many young victims were in the house under supervision and out of sight for less than five minutes before they drowned.
3. Learn CPR. It can be a lifesaver. Literally.
Do you have a water safety tip? Share it in the comments section below.
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