The weather is finally warming up and schools are getting ready to close their doors for summer break, which means many families will soon be spending more time in and around water. With proper supervision, swimming activities are a great way for kids to get exercise and cool off, but parents need to be aware of the risks.
Drowning continues to be the second leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 19, with toddlers and teenage boys among the biggest risk groups. This summer, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has updated guidelines on water safety and drowning prevention, including a relaxed stance on swimming lessons for children less than 4 years old and updated suggestions for guarding large, portable and inflatable pools that have gained popularity in the past few years.
Previously AAP had advised against swimming lessons for children under the age of 4 because the risks associated with extended water exposure seemed to outweigh the benefits. But new studies imply that children between the ages of 1 and 4 maybe less likely to drown if they’ve had some form of swim training. However, the AAP doesn’t recommend swimming lessons for all children; the decision to teach a child under the age of 4 to swim should be based on the child’s exposure to water, physical and mental development and desire to learn.
The AAP also says owners of large, inflatable or portable pools should follow the same fencing guidelines as in ground pools, which recommends a gated, four foot high fence be placed around the pool to act as a physical barrier between unsupervised children and the water. Above ground pools, especially those with soft siding, poses an additional threat because if leaned against with enough force a child could fall in or move the side enough to unleash the hundreds of gallons of water within.
The updated policy also outlines the danger of body entrapment and hair entanglement in a pool or spa drain. Special drain covers and other devices that release the pressure in a drain can prevent such incidents.
In other pool safety news, the Center for Disease Control recently released data concerning the sanitary conditions of public swimming pools through out the country and the results were less than encouraging. The report showed the nearly 1 in 8 pools in a thirteen state study required immediate shut down. The CDC says this information isn’t meant to scare families away from public pools, but is a call to everyone who uses them to be more proactive about public pool safety. Some of the steps the agency suggests are:
- Never let your child swim when they’re not feeling well.
- Don’t let them swallow pool water, or engage in behavior where a lot of water is spraying in their face and/or mouth.
- Practice good hygiene. Shower with soap before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers. Germs on your body end up in the water.
- Take your kids on bathroom breaks or check diapers often.
- Change diapers in a bathroom or a diaper-changing area and not at poolside.
Public pool users can also easily test the water at their local pool by purchasing an inexpensive strip test. If a pool tests shows unsafe levels the CDC urges you to alert the pool operators immediately. Public pools, especially those maintained by the state or city are tested often, but because of how quickly certain germs can spread in water the CDC says vigilance displayed by public pool users can ensure pools are safe for public use, and that unsafe pools are fixed immediately.