Yesterday a 2 1/2 year old girl almost drowned in a nearby city. She is still in very critical condition. It really got me thinking about water safety.
According to Safe Kids, more than 700 children ages 14 and under died in 2009 in the U.S. due to an unintentional drowning. In 2010, an estimated 5,651 children were injured due to a near drowning incident.
Although 90 percent of parents say they supervise their children while they are swimming, many acknowledge that they engage in other distracting activities at the same time – talking, eating, reading or taking care of another child. Safe Kids urges parents and caregivers to actively supervise their children when they are in or near water at all times.
“A child can get into trouble in a matter of seconds,” said Beth Washington, coordinator of Safe Kids Tulsa Area. “This is why it is so important that adults actively supervise kids when they are in or near water and take turns serving as the designated ‘Water Watcher’ to ensure that a watchful eye is on the children at all times.”
Safe Kids Tulsa Area cautions that even a near-drowning incident can have lifelong consequences. Kids who survive a near drowning may experience brain damage that can cause memory problems, learning disabilities, and permanent loss of basic functions. In fact, after just four to six minutes under water – the damage is usually irreversible.
To help keep kids safe this pool season, Safe Kids Tulsa Area recommends using layers of protection and to Lock, Look, and Learn:
· Pools and spas should be surrounded on all four sides by a fence at least four feet high with self-closing and self-latching gates. Studies estimate that this type of isolation fencing could prevent 50 to 90 percent of child drownings in residential pools.
· Pools and spas should have compliant anti-entrapment drain covers and back up devices to ensure safer places for children to swim.
· Pool/spa covers, pool alarms and door alarms can provide an extra layer of protection.
· Be mindful of inflatable or portable pools – these types of pools can also pose a drowning risk and are generally not separated by fencing on all four sides.
· Always watch children when they are around any type of water. According to a national study of drowning-related incidents involving children, a parent or caregiver claimed to be supervising the child in nearly nine out of 10 child drowning-related deaths.
· Designate a “Water Watcher” – a responsible adult who is in charge of watching children while they are in or near water. The Water Watcher should not be distracted by phone calls, text messages, reading or talking to others.
· Supervise children even if they know how to swim – knowing how to swim does not prevent drowning. Children who can’t swim well or can’t swim at all should be within your arm’s reach. They can also wear properly fitted, U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets.
· Keep a phone near you – use it only to call for help if there is an emergency.
· If a child is missing, check the water first.
· Learn how to swim – it is an important skill for both children and adults to know.
· Learn to use life jackets. Children who can’t swim or can’t swim well can wear U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets that are appropriate for the child’s size and weight. Don’t rely on inflatable swimming toys such as water wings and noodles; these toys should never be used in place of U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets.
· Learn CPR and know how to use rescue equipment – these are important skills to know if there is an emergency. In less than two hours, you can learn effective interventions that can give a fighting chance to a child whose breathing and heartbeat have stopped. Contact our local American Red Cross at 800-RED-CROSS or www.tulsaredcross.org for information about local CPR classes.
· Teach children water safety rules such as never swim alone, always wear a life jacket while boating, and never swim or play near pool or spa drains.