by Cinthia Jahnsen
I live in sunny southern CA where pool and beach season can be anytime from March through October, depending on mother natures temperament. As I drive around I always see signs out (huge signs) that say “Prevent Drowning, Alway Watch the Water.” Well, being apart of a community who goes to the beach almost any day of the year, it was important enough to our city to help people see the dangers of water and how to keep our loved ones safe. My children love to swim and are pretty good swimmers too. (At least the older two). My youngest, however, “thinks” he can swim. Which technically he can…a little. He can jump in the pool, turn himself around and swim back to the wall. The kicker is that he hasn’t yet figured out how to lift his head out of the water to take a breath. Not a good thing. One second of me not paying attention to this overly confident, not so good swimmer, could make the difference between life and death. Always watch the water.
When visiting the homes of others, or when considering a pool at your own home, consider a pool fence or gate. Many young children can wander outside when mom is not looking and reach for a ball or toy in the pool and fall in. The first step to prevention is preventing young ones from waltzing right into the pool undetected. If your’e at a friends house and they do not have a pool fence, stay close to your child and know where they are at all times.
Have you noticed almost every community pool is surrounded by a gate. Why is that? To keep people from trespassing? Perhaps, but most likely it is to keep the community safe. Children are fast and can get way from their parents in just a second. Before you know it, they are headed to the open pool water without the proper floatation or supervision. You might complain at times about the locked gates and needing to borrow someone’s pool key, but again, it is safety that matters most, and these fences and locked pool gates can save lives.
Drowning is one of the leading causes of death in children. Injuries can happen as well. Children 7 and older are more at risk for scraps, bruises, and tissue damage. Many injuries occur from hitting the side of the pool, slipping on the wet cement, or hitting the head on the bottom of the pool. Most fatalities and drownings occur to children under 5 years of age, but drowning can happen to anyone at any age.
Injury prevention is key. Make it a rule that no one enters the pool without the adult present and ready to watch. This does not mean mom is busy putting sunscreen on the baby so everyone else can jump in the pool. Perhaps consider lathering up before leaving home, or in the car before the temptation to jump right in is too hard to resist for our young ones.
Here are some tips for keeping your loved ones safe this summer:
- Watch the water
Keep your child safe, by being the lifeguard. Watch your child. Watch the water. Don’t get sidetracked by conversations with other adults, which I know is a rare treat, but your child’s life is more important than the daily dose of adult time.
- Don’t rely on your ears
Don’t rely on your ears for sounds of danger from the pool. Drowning is usually very quick and silent. Don’t expect to hear splashes and cries for help. Do not assume that because there is no sound, your child is safe. A child can drown in an inch of water. Again, always watch the water.
- Stay within arms reach of a young child
Water safety is not only important at the pool, but at the beach, lake, and even the bathtub. At the beach don’t assume that because there is a lifeguard, your child is protected. The life guard has many people to watch out for. Watch your child in the ocean, again be within arm’s length. I had a friend from high school who nearly drowned at the beach. She was 15. It’s not only little ones who we need to watch. Watch out for riptides, know the weather conditions, and again, never turn your back to the ocean.
- Go over pool rules and enforce them
Go over the rules of the pool before anyone is allowed to enter the pool. These may include, no running, diving, horse play, etc.
- Enroll your child in swim lessons
Swimming lessons can be expensive, and someone with a low income or a large family might find it difficult to pay for swimming lessons. However, think of swim lessons as an injury prevention course. Some things are worth the money. Perhaps you could find a family friend who was lifeguard who could help. Learn tips and tools from them and be involved in their lessons so you can help along the way and reinforce lessons learned during swimming lessons.
This summer, have a blast, make memories, enjoy every moment. Smile, laugh, hug and treasure the time with your family. Keep your loved ones safe and “always watch the water.”