May is recognized across the swimming community as National Water Safety Month. Given that pools across the country have been closed for several weeks due to COVID-19, there is heightened concern about the risks of drowning and water safety as summer approaches.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, learning to swim should be a priority for every family as it plays a key role in drowning prevention. Drowning is the leading cause of death among children ages 1-4 except for birth defects, and it is the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death behind motor vehicle crashes for children ages 1-14.
Until we can all return safely back to swim lessons, we wanted to share some additional water safety tips for parents to keep top of mind and teach their kids while at home.
Remember that Drowning is Often Silent
Dramatized TV shows and movies taught us to believe that drowning is highly visible with a struggling swimmer waving, splashing and yelling for help. In reality, drowning is a deceptively silent event. A person struggling in water usually can’t call for help because their respiratory system is too busy trying to breathe. They can rarely wave their arms for attention as the body’s instinct is to push down on the water to come up for air. It’s important to be able to recognize some of the silent signs of drowning:
Always be Watching
During swim lessons at Big Blue Swim School, we always have our eyes on the students, no matter their age or ability. Parents must do the same and pay close and constant attention to kids when they are in or near water, even if a lifeguard is on duty. If multiple adults are present, assign someone to be the Water Watcher, the person who actively supervises kids in the water without distraction, and switch every 15 minutes to avoid fatigue. Water Watchers should always be scanning the water and should sit within reach of kids. We encourage parents to teach and continuously remind kids that they should never go near water without an adult with them.
Check on Barriers to Water Access
It’s important to keep all pool areas and entrances to open water secure to prevent children from accessing. If you have a pool, hot tub, or body of water near your house, make sure all fences and pool gates are secure, ideally with a self-locking gate, and that door locks and alarms are installed and working properly. Additionally, pool owners should never leave toys or other objects that might attract children in or near water.
Wear a Proper Life Jacket
One easy thing to do to help keep kids be safer around water is to require non-independent swimmers to wear a properly fitted life jacket, even if a child isn’t swimming. Here’s what to look for in a life jacket:
- It should stay under a child’s chin when they lift their arms over their head
- The straps should be tightened until the jacket is snug
- The weight range for the jacket should be appropriate for the child’s size
- The jacket should be approved by the U.S. Coast Guard, which will be stated on the packaging
While life jackets help keep kids afloat, they are not a substitute for adult supervision.
Be Prepared for Emergencies
We hope these tips are all you will ever need to prevent kids from drowning. However, it’s always best to have a plan in case of an emergency. Parents should consider enrolling in an online CPR class and should update those skills regularly. If you own a pool, be sure to post CPR instructions for others to see.
Should you see a distressed swimmer, the American Red Cross urges you to:
- Shout for help
- Rescue and remove the person from the water if you are able to do so without putting yourself in danger
- Call or tell someone nearby to call 911
- Begin rescue breathing and CPR
- Use an AED if available and you’ve been trained to use it, then transfer care to advanced life support
We want to emphasize that there is no such thing as being "water safe,” but with proper instruction everyone can be "water safer." That’s why we feel so passionate about what we do at Big Blue Swim School. Knowing how to swim is a critical life-saving skill and one that we want every child to have an opportunity to learn.
To learn more about Big Blue Swim School, visit our website or call us at 847-729-7665.