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  • 'Drown-Proof' Your Toddler: 5 Safety Rules You Cannot Ignore When Swimming

    For one, never leave your child unsupervised or without a life jacket.
    by Kate Borbon .
'Drown-Proof' Your Toddler: 5 Safety Rules You Cannot Ignore When Swimming
PHOTO BY iStock
  • Swimming is probably what your family will be doing the most this summer. Without a doubt, it is fun, but your child's safety is paramount anytime you're near any body of water. In the U.S., drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death in children, killing 1,000 children every year.

    Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) updated its set of recommendations for parents in a policy report, “Prevention of Drowning,” published in Pediatrics last March 15, 2019.

    How to prevent drowning in children

    In a press release, Sarah Denny, M.D., FAAP, the lead author of the policy statement, says, “Drowning is the single leading cause of injury-related death among children ages 1 to 4 [in the United States. Many of these deaths occur when children are not expected to be swimming or when they have unanticipated access to water. Toddlers are naturally curious; that’s why we must implement other strategies, such as pool fencing and door locks.”

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    “Research has found that swim lessons are beneficial for children starting around age 1 and may lower drowning rates,” said Linda Quan, MD, FAAP, a co-author of the policy statement.

    We highly encourage parents to keep the following guidelines mind before you pack your summer bag and put on the swimsuits. A fun trip should always be a safe trip.

    1. Parents and caregivers should never leave young children alone or in the care of another young child when in or near any open body of water.

    Regardless of a child’s age, he should be supervised closely at all times, especially when he is in or near a body of water. AAP's website for parents, Healthy Children, writes that parents and caregivers should give children “undivided attention,” and veer away from doing any activities that might make them lose their focus.

    While in the water, the AAP recommends staying within arm’s length of the child to provide constant “touch supervision.” Finally, during events near pools or other bodies of water, parents and caregivers must assign a “water watcher” who will keep an eye on the child at all times.

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    2. For families who have pools at home, a four-sided fence with a self-closing, self-latching gate should be installed around the pool to separate it from the rest of the house.

    According to the AAP policy report, the fencing installed around a pool should be about 4 feet high, with no opening beneath it or between slats that are wider than 4 inches, and a self-closing and self-latching gate that will make it difficult for a child to open it by himself. The AAP calls this strategy “the most studied and effective” tactic, having been found to prevent more than half of swimming pool drowning for young children.

    3. Parents and caregivers are advised to learn CPR.

    Should a child drown accidentally, immediate resuscitation can mean the difference between life and death. The people in the child’s surroundings should at least have some knowledge on how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), including parents, caregivers, and even older children and other family members.

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    4. Parents and children over 1 year old are encouraged to participate in formal swimming instruction.

    Water competency, defined as “the ability to anticipate, avoid and survive common drowning situations,” is one factor that can help reduce the risk of drowning, according to the AAP policy report. While knowing how to swim alone does not guarantee that a child will not drown, some programs do provide knowledge on safe swimming practices and even on responding to swimmers in distress.

    AAP also stresses that the decision on when to have children participate in swim instruction still depends on their parents, who are called to consider several factors such as the child’s comfort in the water, emotional maturity, and physical and cognitive limitations.

    5. Children of all ages should be provided with life jackets to be worn whenever they are in or near any open body of water.

    Life jackets are designed to keep the head above the water and the body in position to allow for proper breathing, making it crucial in preventing drowning. KidsHealth recommends parents to invest in life jackets with straps that fit their children’s bodies snugly. Adults are also encouraged to wear life jackets, as a way to model safe swimming behavior to children and to allow them to help kids whenever necessary.

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    On the other hand, parents are strongly advised against letting their children use air-filled swimming aids, such as inflatable arm bands, which do not actually help in reducing the risk of drowning.

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