6 tips for keeping children safe by the water

(Photo provided)

With summer here, parents are frequently pooling their thoughts and asking me for tips on keeping their children safe when they are around pools and other bodies of water. Let me dive right in and provide some information on water safety and kids.

1. Remember, while dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, adults and children at the pool or beach need to maintain physical distancing and have everyone wear masks until it’s time to go in the water, when masks are not to be worn.

2. Teach your children how to swim. Studies suggest that swimming lessons can lower but not eliminate the risk of drowning in children between the ages of 1 and 4, although they do not lower the risk in children under 1. By age 4, all children who are going to be in and about a body of water or pool should certainly be taught how to swim, but again, swim lessons do not make children “drown proof” at any age.

3. Never leave a child unobserved around any body of water. A child can drown in under 20 seconds, the same time it takes to go inside and preheat the oven for dinner. Older children should always swim with a buddy who can swim if an adult is not around to supervise.

4. Children who cannot swim should wear proper-fitting, Coast Guard-approved flotation devices when in the water. Water wings and inner tubes are not effective protection against drowning.

5. Pools need to be completely enclosed with a self-locking, self-closing gated fence at least 4 feet high with slats less than 4 inches wide that children cannot crawl through or reach up to open. Pool toys should not be left out when not in use, since these can attract children into the pool area when supervision may not be present.

6. Finally, it is a good idea to have a cellphone with you when your children are in the water so that 911 can be dialed immediately if there is a water emergency.

Hopefully tips like these will make a big splash when it comes to knowing more about how to protect your child in the water this summer.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of pediatrics at the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the department of pediatrics at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and NBC5.


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