Family Water Safety Guide
The last of the snow may be melting where you are, but the mercury will be rising soon, and with higher temperatures comes the desire to spend the days of summer lounging by the pool, splashing in the surf and wading in nearby lakes. Although water play is a great way to bond as a family, it is not without risk: accidental drowning is the second-leading cause of injury-related death in kids under 14 years of age, and is responsible for about 10 deaths per day. While this is an extremely scary statistic, there are definitely things you can do to reduce your child’s risk of drowning.
- Swimming Lessons
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends formal swimming lessons for all kids over the age of 4. While these lessons are not harmful for younger children, they’re also not necessarily beneficial; most kids are not ready to be competent swimmers until they’re about five years of age. Still, early exposure to the water can reduce the chance of your child panicking if suddenly submerged, and that alone can make a difference. Contact your local recreation center or YMCA for information about signing up your kids for lessons. You should do this now, as classes fill up quickly, and it would be good to have a few sessions under their belts before the swimming season starts.
- Good Supervision
Even if your child has taken lessons and is an excellent swimmer, he is not drown-proof. Nobody, even an adult, should swim alone. When your kids are splashing around in the pool or in the ocean, you must watch them every second. Don’t read, talk on the phone or drink alcohol while you are supposed to be supervising your kids in the water. If your children are young, stay within an arm’s reach of them at all times. If you visit an ocean, lake or river, keep your little ones in shallow water, and watch older kids carefully; an undertow current can sweep even proficient swimmers off of their feet.
- Life Jackets Save Lives
If you are going to be doing any type of boating, jet-skiing or other water sports, life jackets are mandatory for everyone. Even if your child has been swimming for years, a slip off of the deck of a boat or off of a jet ski can cause him to become disoriented under the water. He could also hit his head on the way down; a life jacket will keep him afloat even if he loses consciousness momentarily (or longer). Make this non-negotiable. Anyone who does not wear a life jacket does not participate in the activity.
- Warn Your Teens
Although the kids most at risk for drowning are under the age of four, the other age group at risk is adolescents, particularly boys. Kids over the age of 14 may have a false sense of bravado, and can take risks in the water without even thinking about it. They also tend to go to the beach without their parents, and in some cases, may engage in drinking prior to swimming. Talk to your teens about never mixing alcohol and swimming or boating, and also remind them of the ways to keep themselves safe while in the water.
By taking these precautions, you can have an uneventful and safe summer when it comes to water sports and swimming.