Tuesday marked the first day of summer. It means fun in the sand and surf, but with it often comes tragic stories about children drowning. But it’s not just in ground swimming pools and rip tides that are dangerous to young swimmers. Kiddie or inflatable pools, even with their limited amounts of water, are responsible for many of the season’s water related injuries. These pools are often bright colors and adorned with recognizable cartoon characters to attract young children, but their walls and supports are flimsy. With even a small amount of pressure they’ll bend or push downward. A child who runs up to a SpongeBob Square Pants pool and pushes on a picture of their favorite undersea friend can quickly have gallons of water dumped into his face and mouth. In some cases even a small amount can be deadly.
According to a new study, published in Pediatrics, there were 209 fatal drowning reported from 2001 through 2009 caused by portable, above ground pools. Most cases involved children younger than 5 years. When averaged together, this adds up to one toddler drowning death every five days during the summer months because of poorly supervised kiddie pools.
Not surprisingly, many of these deaths happened when the children were unattended, or when miscommunication between caregivers led to everyone assuming someone else was watching the children. Even when that confusion lasts only a matter of minutes, it can have deadly consequences. The same amount of time it takes to answer a phone call or check an email can be long enough for a child to drown.
In light of this information here’s a few safety tips to keep your child safe around water this summer.
- Children using inflatable pools must be supervised at all times. Always drain inflatable kiddie pools when not in use.
- Once empty, flip kid pools upside down to make sure they don’t collect rainwater. If a parent thinks a pool is empty they may be less vigilant about watching their child around it, but even a few inches of rainwater can be enough to drown a child in some situations.
- If you have an in ground swimming pool, a cover is not enough protection. A four-sided fence that is at least four feet tall must surround the pool. In addition, the fence should be freestanding and NOT connected to the house, because a child who sneaks off while inside the house could then have access to the pool.
- If you have a decorative pond or fishpond, toddlers should never have access to this area. Fish and running water could attract children, so a small wall should surround the pond, this way even if a child heads to the area unattended, they won’t be able to rush over to the pond and possibly fall in while looking at the animals.
But no matter vigilant you are about water safety, there’s always the threat of incidents occurring beyond your control. To be prepared in the event of an emergency, parents are encouraged to learn pediatric CPR. Here’s a video of Josh Farber-Sault, RN, a nurse in Children’s Emergency Department, demonstrating some basic pediatric CPR techniques.
While it’s good for parents to watch and learn from Josh’s video, it’s important to note that viewing it doesn’t constitute formal CPR training. Any parent or caregiver who plans on having their child around water this summer is strongly recommended to take an official CPR training course. You can’t ever fully guarantee your child will be safe from water accidents, but you can make sure you’re as prepared as possible to handle an emergency situation should one happen.