Drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages 1 through 4 with nearly 90% of drownings under the age of 5 occurring in home pools or hot tubs. In honor of May as National Drowning Prevention Month, here are some recommendations to help keep your children safe and–most importantly–alive around water.
First and foremost, supervising children in and around water is the best practice for any parent or babysitter to undertake. Never leave your child alone in or near a pool, lake, bathtub or around really any source of water. A child can drown in just two inches of water—this includes mop buckets, sinks, toilets, puddles, retention ponds, etc. Also, if you are at a pool party or beach gathering, ensure that you appoint a designated water watcher—someone who has the responsibility of watching children in water without any distractions for specific increments of time. No phones, no drinking, no socializing–just watching the water. If each adult agrees to 15 or 30 minute shifts and then rotates, children will be under constant surveillance with everyone still able to enjoy themselves.
If you have a home pool or live near a body of water, you must always be sure to keep barriers for entry in place and secure all entry points like windows or doors. A barrier fence around a pool or separating your property from bodies of water with a self-closing, self-latching gate works effectively well. Also, an inexpensive, self-adhesive door / window alarm (like this one) affixed to all points of entry is extremely effective at alerting parents when their children are at risk of going into water.
If you are a parent or caretaker, it’s never too soon to learn such lifesaving training as CPR. In as short as a few hours, you can be certified to resuscitate a drowning victim. A list of training resources can be found through both the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association. Also, training doesn’t stop with the parents. Be sure to get your child in swim lessons early and often. Children can begin lessons as early as six months of age and they should continue lessons until they are capable swimmers. Even after learning how to adequately swim, lessons don’t drown-proof your child and even good swimmers can get fatigued or face sudden illness in the water.
No single one of the above recommendations completely drown-proofs your child. Each of the above are best implemented together as layers of protection. There is no substitute for adult supervision. Have fun and stay safe this summer!