Spring is here and the weather is finally starting to warm up. Before long it will be time to take the family down to your favorite swimming hole. Whether you venture to a river, lake, beach or community pool to cool off when the mercury rises, one of the most important things to keep in mind is water safety.
Two children under the age of 14 die every day from unintentional drowning, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. For each of those deaths, there are another five children that will end up in the emergency room from non-fatal submersion injuries.
Here are some of the important things you can do as a parent to keep your kids safe near the water during the warm weather months.
One of the biggest factors of unintentional drowning is the inability to swim. You can solve this problem by getting your children enrolled in a swim lesson program at your local YMCA or municipal pool. Children can start lessons on theoir own when they are as young as 3 or 4 years old. One of the first things they will learn is how to be safe in the water and to float. Parents who want to get their kids comfortable in the water at an earlier age can do so by signing up for a mommy and me swimming class which includes both parent and child getting in the water and playing games with other parents and their children. These classes get young children used to going underwater and blowing bubbles in a safe and controlled setting. Springtime is one of the best times to get signed up for lessons before the hot summer months set in.
Lifejackets – Keeping your kids safe around the water is much easier when they wear a life jacket or use a floatation device, especially those children who are younger and less experienced in the water. If your family is spending time on the water in a boat, canoe or kayak then having children and teenagers wear lifejackets is essential. Seventy-two percent of the boating deaths that took place in 2010 were caused by drowning. Of those, 88 percent of the victims were not wearing a life jacket. Even for those families who are spending time in their community pools, if your kids are not yet strong swimmers, a life jacket is a must.
Barriers – Another huge problem when it comes to water and kids is that there aren’t proper barriers to keep kids out of where they shouldn’t be. Be aware of signs that warn of no swimming and unsafe areas. If your kids spend time at a friend or family member’s house and they have a pool, make sure that there is a secure barrier, such as a gate or fence, separating the pool and house, especially when the pool is not being used. A child’s risk of drowning goes up 83 percent when a four-sided fence does not separate the house and pool.
Supervision – Perhaps one of the most important things to keep in mind when your family visits the water is to make sure that children are supervised at all times. It only takes a moment for a child to go from swimming to struggling. If you visit a lakeshore, beach or community pool, make sure that there will be a trained lifeguard on duty before dropping off your teenagers. If you have children who are younger than 4-years-old parents should be within an arms length practicing what is known as “touch supervision”. Lack of supervision is often times one of the most common reasons for accidents.
Sunscreen – While it can often be forgotten, another important warm weather tip for families enjoying the water is to apply waterproof sunscreen of at least a 30 SPF or higher 15 minutes before going outside. Be sure reapply every 2 hours to avoid sunburn and possible skin cancer down the road.
Following these warm weather water safety tips will keep your family safe and healthy throughout the summer swim season.
Kristy Hessman is a former lifeguard and swim instructor who blogs about student issues at yoursash.com, the leading provider of graduation stoles and sashes.
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