The summer means fun in the sun, swimming in the pool—and increased risk for drowning. In fact, two-thirds of childhood drowning cases happen within the months of May to August. The risk increases (and lasts all year) for those who have an indoor pool. Here are essential safety precautions all parents must take.
1. Never leave a child unattended.
Your child could drown in minutes, the same amount of time it takes to answer the phone. It doesn’t matter if your pool is shallow. There are cases of kids drowning in wading pools or even the bathtub, because they lost consciousness after slipping hitting their head on the side.
2. Dive safely.
Don’t let kids dive in shallow pools: they could hit their head or twist or fracture an ankle. And before they jump off a diving board, make sure that it’s well anchored.
3. Inspect the pool.
The main drain should be covered (if it’s not, it could create a “suction” that’s similar to a whirlpool. It could pull your child—and you wouldn’t notice until much later.
4. Inspect pool toys.
They should not have any long strings or loops that could entangle a child. Any pool nets (typically used for water volleyball) should be securely tied. Also check for sharp corners or pointed edges that could poke your children in case they start playing rough (which often happens when they horse around in the pool).
5. Enroll your child in swimming classes.
There are many courses that help teach toddler basic swimming safety. They’ll learn essential skills like how to breathe under water, float, and doggy paddle. Usually, the instructors will also drill them on pool safety rules (it’s always good to have another adult reinforce what you’re saying).
6. Set “safe play” rules.
Tell kids not to run around the poolside (they could slip), or to push each other into the pool. Explain why they should never pull each other underwater, and never ever to pretend or joke that they’re drowning (they’d never be able to tell when somebody really needs help).
7. Remember that pool toys are not safety gear.
Floaties, rings and other flotation devices are for recreation, and do not guarantee that your child will not sink. The best safety device is a parent’s watchful eye.
8. Keep rescue devices nearby.
Keep a life ring and hook near the swimming pool. Drowning happens very quickly, and you may not be able to swim fast enough to reach whoever is in trouble. The life ring also enables anyone—even a young child—to help adults or siblings.
9. Install pool barriers.
This is very important if you have a pool. Your child can wander there when you’re not looking. Invest in a pool cover and safety fences or gates. Make sure that any doors leading to the pool have locks that are beyond his reach. Put away any pool toys that could attract his attention and lure him there.
It’s also important to keep pool chemicals and cleansers behind locked doors. These are poisonous when ingested.
10. Empty inflatable pools.
If you have a wading pool, empty it when you’re done. This may seem inconvenient, but consider the benefits: you prevent scum from forming, you keep away mosquitoes (which like to breed in standing water), and you remove any risk of your child going there when you’re not looking.
11. Use proper swimming attire.
Don’t allow anyone to swim in t-shirts or short, which grow heavy when wet and can drag him down when he dives or tries to fight against current.
12. Learn emergency resuscitation.
Many community centers offer classes on basic CPR and other emergency procedures. You (and all the members of the household) should know what to do. Hopefully you’ll never need to actually use the information, but at least you’re prepared. Print out an easy step-by-step and post near the pool area.