Dr. Mom: As pools draw children, drowning risks increase

05/17/2012 12:00 AM

02/26/2013 8:10 PM

Last summer our family was enjoying a nice, relaxing day in the backyard of good friends. The kids were getting ready for a dip in the pool.

At the time, my daughter was 3 years old and my son was 6. He was becoming fairly confident with his swimming; my daughter had only a couple of lessons under her belt.

My husband was left in charge of watching the two of them while I went to grab something. He was literally about a foot from our daughter when she did it.

She jumped in, without warning or hesitation.

Thankfully, his proximity allowed him to swiftly hop in and scoop her out.

This is the thing about children and water: They are wholly unpredictable when they are near it. It's exactly why we can never let our guard down when we are supervising children near any water.

Water is a magnet to children. They are enticed to investigate. it With summer upon us and families heading to pools, lakes or beaches, it's time to brush up on water safety and kids.

Unfortunately, drowning is the second-most-common cause of accidental death among children.

When at a social gathering that involves a pool, always designate a "watcher." People too often assume someone else is watching. They become comfortable in a group and think there are plenty of eyes to go around. It's best to specifically assign an adult to watch children near water.

Keep toddlers and young children who are unable to swim within arm's reach. We call this touch supervision. Toddlers can drown in inches of water. If they to topple over, even in shallow water, they have difficultly righting themselves.

It's scary. I've seen it happen. So please, do not let your guard down.

If you have a pool in your yard, make sure it's completely fenced in. The fence should be at least 4 feet tall, and be self-latching and locking.

Never leave the gate propped open. Simply having a locked gate that leads to the pool is not enough. We forget to lock gates and doors, and children quickly learn how to unlock them.

The same goes for above-ground pools and kiddie pools. These should be fenced in as well, and the kiddie pools should always be drained after use.

Enroll your child in professional swim lessons. Certainly by age 4, sooner depending on the child's development and readiness.

Learning to swim is a necessary skill in my book. Never, however, assume your child is "drownproof" because at age 5 he or she has mastered this skill.

Children still require close supervision whenever swimming, and parents should know that drowning is silent. Contrary to popular belief, drowning victims do not splash, yell or make a lot of noise.

Be alert when supervising children in water.

A word on flotation devices: they are not a substitute for vigilance. In fact, they can offer a false sense of security. Use only a Coast Guard-approved life vest and always use it for children and adults on boats.

Learn CPR and know what else to do in an emergency. Time of year, we hear and see too many tragedies involving drownings.

The key is to be vigilant when it comes to water and children. As my daughter proved, accidents can happen in the blink of an eye.

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