I don’t like starting these posts off with scary statistics, but when it comes to drowning, it’s hard to start anywhere else. According to the CDC, drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death in children ages 1 to 4, and is second only to motor vehicle accidents in children ages 5 to 19. To keep your children safe, consider these tips to help prevent drowning.
Supervision is Important
I cannot overstate the importance of watching children around water. This applies to more than pools, lakes and oceans. A child really can drown in just an inch of water. Most children under a year of age don’t drown in pools, but in bathtubs, toilets and buckets of water. Never leave them alone for even a short period of time. At the pool or the beach, lifeguards help provide an extra layer of security, but they are no substitute for adult supervision. I advise parents to stay within an arm’s reach of their children. Keep a charged phone handy in case of emergency and learn CPR. You can enroll in classes through various community organizations, including St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
Enrolling in Swim Lessons
A child can begin swim lessons as young as 6 months old. Lessons can make your children more comfortable with water and help them to understand the rules of the pool when they’re toddlers; by the time they reach age 4, they are developmentally capable of learning the techniques that will make them competent swimmers. Even after they’ve mastered the skills, though, you should still stay nearby.
Use Coast Guard approved Floatation Devices
When you’re on a boat or at the beach, make sure you have access to Coast Guard approved life jackets. That “Coast Guard” stamp of approval is important to note — water wings, inter-tubes and other toy floatation devices are just that. Toys. Do not rely on them to protect your child in the water.
Enjoy the Water
I started with the scary statistics, so I’ll end on a happier note: some of the best memories I have of my daughter’s childhood were made in our backyard pool. As the weather warms up, enjoy watching your children splash and play, knowing you are taking every reasonable precaution to protect them. For more on how to keep your children safe at the pool, and the rules we made for our own pool, read my post about pool safety.
Disclaimer: This post was updated on 5/11/2018 to reflect current pediatric recommendations.