We are all humans. We do make mistakes and yes, it can happen to you. No matter how careful we are, all it takes is a 30-second distraction to send us into panic mode because we cannot locate a child. Even worse is not being able to locate them when there is a body of water in the vicinity. Did you know that the number 1 cause of accidental deaths for children ages 1-4 is drowning (*CDC 2011)? May is National Drowning Prevention Month but be aware that drowning is not seasonal (it just gets worse during certain months of the year). It can and does happen all year and we need to know how best to prepare our children to save themselves when we are not there to do it.
The month of May is traditionally celebrated much like a holiday across America. It is the unofficial start to the summer, when the weather warms up and we trade in the indoors for the outdoors. For many of us, the outdoors starts with water. Whether the community pool, the local lake or even the beautiful Pacific Ocean, we head out to wherever it is that we can to cool our heals. So much to celebrate in the month of May including Memorial Day, which is synonymous with poolside fun. But with the good comes some bad. May is also the beginning of what is considered drowning season. Inevitably, with more bathers comes more drownings. Let’s look at the facts:
- Drowning is the leading cause of death to children 1-4
- In many cases, drowning is a silent event, without splashing or a call for help.
- In most areas of the country, most child drownings occur in backyard pools & spas.
- Drowning is a complex public health issue, requiring a multifaceted approach using multiple prevention strategies.
- Scientific research, engineering advancements, legislation, community outreach, and education are all necessary strategies, on the national level, to prevent drownings.
I believe that education is the best way to prepare for the outdoors season and I would like to offer up a few layers of protections that you can use to prevent tragedies from taking place.
- ALWAYS know where children are. Never leave a child unattended in or near water in a pool, tub, lake, river, canal or ocean, even when lifeguards are present.
- ALWAYS be aware of potential dangers in all environments, such as when away from home. Never leave your child in an environment with unprotected water hazards.
- Instruct babysitters and caregivers about potential pool hazards and emphasize the need for constant supervision of children and barriers.
- If a child is missing, always check the pool or spa first.
- Whenever infants and toddlers are in or around water, an adult should be within an arm’s length, providing “touch supervision.”
- In addition to parental supervision, designate a “Water Watcher” to maintain constant watch over children in or near the water. The “Water Watcher” should not talk on the phone, read, cook, clean, or engage in any other distracting activity. After fifteen minutes, a new “Water Watcher” should be designated so that supervision stays fresh. Ensure that the “Water Watcher” is a sober adult who knows CPR and has basic swimming skills.
- Do not use flotation devices as a substitute for supervision. “Water wings” or “floaties,” inflatable water rings, and other pool toys are NOT safety devices. Only US Coast Guard approved life jackets are designed and tested for safety.
The added layers of protection and much more information can be found at http://ndpa.org/ (National Drowning Prevention Alliance).