Just in case you missed the heatwave outside, allow this to serve as your notice that summer is here! Our kids have traded in their school uniforms for swimsuits and are looking for any opportunity to beat the heat, whether it’s at the beach or the family’s swimming pool. While the water provides lots of opportunities for fun, there is also the ever-present risk of drowning when kids are around any body of water. During the summer months, emergency room visits for both fatal and non-fatal drowning increase. Given this increased risk, parents and caretakers must take precautions to make sure summer is tragedy-free.
The most important tip is to make sure that your children are properly supervised at the beach and around the pool at all times, whether they can swim or not. Many times, parents will get preoccupied with cell phones, reading material, or other distractions. However, it’s important that your time near the water with your kids is free of all distractions. Parents and caretakers should have their eyes on the water at all times. Many people assume that drowning is loud and dramatic with lots of splashing and cries for help, but nothing could be further from the truth. Drownings are usually quiet events where the child can be submerged for a significant period before anyone realizes something is wrong. The sooner a child in distress is recognized, the better the outcome. Vigilance is key to avoiding tragedy.
Teach children how to play safely with one another in the pool and the ocean. Games like Marco Polo and spraying each other with water pistols are fun and should be encouraged, but children should be taught that some games are off limits. Setting rules for children is the best way to maintain safety. Rules such as not climbing on each other, no hitting, no dunking, and no pushing are easy ways to keep the children safe. Parents should have a zero-tolerance policy for any child found breaking the rules.
Teach your kids how to swim. I know this may seem obvious, but it needs to be said. If you have young children, it’s important that they are taught how to get to the side of the pool in case of an emergency. For example, toddlers are taught to swim on their backs and swim to the nearest side. This keeps them safe and makes sure that the one time you look away for a quick moment, they will be OK. Also, don’t rely on water wings, pool toys and/or noodles to keep your children safe. In fact, these devices can actually be dangerous in the open ocean. If your child can’t swim, they should be fit into a personal flotation device (PFC) and you should be in the water with them at all times. There are several swim clubs on the island and instructors are available to help with even the smallest infant. Make arrangements for your child’s lesson today!
Learn CPR. It’s not as intimidating as one may think and it saves lives. Bystanders are often the first to help a drowning victim, so learning and knowing CPR could save a life. Take a class to learn the steps to help adults and children if something were to happen in your pool or the ocean. CPR classes are easily and readily available through hospitals, clinics and other private bodies. The American Red Cross also has instructional videos on their website. These classes are valuable for teaching you how to keep yourself safe as a first responder while offering appropriate aid. Any accident scene can be very chaotic; CPR classes will prepare you to keep calm and proceed through the steps of resuscitation until help arrives.
Make use of the buddy system. This is particularly useful for crowded public beaches and pools. Assign children a partner and inform them that they should know where their partner is and what they are doing at all times. Children should also be taught the signs that their buddy is in trouble. They should be taught not to try to help their buddy alone, but to always look for help first, so an adult can be aware that there is a problem.
While pools and beaches offer an abundance of summertime fun, they are not free of danger. Be sure to take a few moments to make sure that your kids are aware of everything they need to do to ensure that their time in the water is an enjoyable and safe experience. If you have questions about how you can keep your child safe in the water this summer, don’t hesitate to reach out. Your pediatrician is a valuable resource for helping you raise happy and healthy kids.
• Dr. Tamarra Moss is a pediatrician committed to helping you raise happy and healthy kids. You can find her at Dr. Carlos Thomas & Pediatric Associates in New Providence, Lucayan Medical Center in Grand Bahama, or on Instagram @mykidsdoc242.