Pool safety: A few short tips for parents

The Pediatric Insider

© 2014 Roy Benaroch, MD

Last time, I wrote about the latest media hysteria about “dry drowning.” Drowning is a real hazard, but not every child who sputters and coughs after a dunk needs to be rushed to the hospital.

But there are some important steps parents need to take to keep their children safe. I love summer, and I love swimming (I love seafood, too. Maybe there’s a connection.) But, as they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

There is no substitute for adult supervision. Swim lessons, safety vests, water-wings—they’re all fine, and can help children gain confidence and have fun in the water. But none of these has been shown to actually prevent drowning. An adult needs to be watching kids whenever they’re in the water. And for children who depend on vests and plastic inflatables to remain alive, that adult needs to be no more than an arm-length away. Not Facebooking, not talking with adults outside the pool, but engaged and playing with the children, paying attention.

And don’t even get me started on this thing.

Even for older, school-aged kids, an adult needs to be a “designated watcher.” That person should not be drinking, and should keep their eyes on the kids in the water. Even good swimmers can drown, especially if they jump in head first or hurt themselves horsing around.

Other pool safety tips:

Pools need to be fenced in, following guidelines that make fences difficult for children to climb. Gates should be locked. You can also use a pool alarm, but realize that no technology is 100% reliable or a substitute for a reliable fence.

Remove ladders from above-ground pools when not in use, and dump out wading or kiddie pools. It doesn’t take much depth to drown a child, and besides the water in a kiddie pool gets grody fast.

Make pools less attractive to young children by removing toys and floaties when not in use.

Take a CPR course. Sometimes, an ounce of prevention isn’t enough. You need that pound of cure.

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