Did you know that drowning is the third leading cause of accidental death for children ages 14 and younger? It is the second leading cause of unintentional death among children ages 1 to 4 years.
Terri Ford, community health outreach coordinator for Cook Children’s and Safe Kids Tarrant County coordinator, wants to make sure that parents are prepared for warm weather and children in the water.
Seventy-five percent of drowning and near-drownings happen in pools, with children 5 years old or under. Bathtubs are the leading location of drowning for infants.
“Active adult supervision and layers of protection such as door alarms and a fence can lower the risk for your child,” Ford said. “The majority of these water-related incidents happen in the child’s own backyard pools and to children 4 years old and younger. Drowning prevention around the pool starts with adult supervision.”
Children are protected by layers of protection by using these safety techniques whenever children are around the pool:
- Always have adult supervision present when a children are swimming or around pools.
- A fence with a locking gate should surround the pool.
- Install door alarms to alert adults when a child is entering the pool area.
- Require life jacket use for non-swimmers.
- Enroll children in swimming lessons.
- Parents and caregivers should undergo CPR training.
In nearly nine out of 10 child drowning –related deaths, the parent or caregiver said the child had been with them in the house or pool within five minutes of the accident. Ford says she knows it is difficult to supervise children 100 percent of the time. She said the levels of protection provides barriers in case the child should slip out of supervision.
Aside from supervision, four-sided isolation fencing with self-closing/self-latching gates is the best protection for your child and pets. It could prevent 50-90 percent of childhood drowning and near-drowning incidents. This type of fencing goes beyond the yard, to fencing in the pool itself, preventing direct access from the house.
Door and gate alarms give another signal that a child may have access to the pool area without supervision. The tendency is to disconnect it – especially at parties where people are going in and out. But these are also the times when small children are the most vulnerable for injury because of the confusion.
Learning CPR can save a child’s life by restoring breathing and circulation until advance life support can be given by health care providers.
Swim programs for children should teach good water safety behaviors in and around the pool but should not be seen as the sole way to decrease the risk of drowning.
Use a U.S. Coast Guard approved lifejacket with children who can’t swim. It should fit snugly when the child is buckled in and should not go beyond the top of the ears when lifted at the shoulders. Many air-filled, float-type toys are thought to be lifesavers but are not.
Check your pool and spa for cracked or broken drain covers on a regular basis. The suction around the drain can catch hair or clothing, pinning the child underwater. Anti-entrapment drain covers are available for as low as $40 and serve as another level of protection.
Since beach balls, noodles and other toys are attractive to curious young children – put them away when not at the pool.
Safe Kids Tarrant County, led by Cook Children’s, also offers Water Watcher tags to anyone or group who will use or distribute them. These are especially helpful at parties around the pool or lake to help designate adults that are watching the water. After 15 minutes, the tag is given to another responsible adult – letting everyone enjoy the party while ensuring that the kids are being properly watched. To receive a Water Watcher Tag, call Ford at 682-885-1619.