Water Safety Measures to Follow During Pool and Beach Season

This article highlights the need for water safety during pool and beach season, considering the alarming increase in drowning incidents among children, and discusses some key preventative strategies and measures.

Beach and pool season is upon us, and the prospect of enjoying some sunshine with your baby or toddler is rightfully exciting. While you're in the process of gathering all the requirements for a perfect day out in the sun - sunscreen and water toys - it's essential to review your knowledge of water safety.

Recent data suggest that the occurrence of drowning deaths among young children are rapidly escalating. A recent report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that the number of such unfortunate incidents has seen a significant rise over the past few years

Drowning already stands as the leading cause of death for children aged between 1 to 4. The rate of drowning incidents for this age group increased by 28% in 2022 compared to the figures from 2019, according to the new data available

"No one should have to lose a child to drowning", says Tessa Clemens, Ph.D., a health scientist in CDC's Division of Injury Prevention and the lead author of this report. However, the most recent stats tell a sad tale - 461 children within the age group of 1 to 4 succumbed to drowning in 2022 alone

In fact, each year from 2020 to 2022 saw an average increase of nearly 70 drowning deaths when compared to 2019. Experts put forward a theory correlating this increase with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which children spent more time at home, in close proximity to pools and other water sources.

Children of 1 to 4 years, more often than not, face drowning incidents in pools, usually located within their homes, as per Clemens' accounts. For infants under the age of 1, bathtubs present the most common location of such incidents.

This sharp rise in numbers stresses the necessity for effective drowning prevention strategies. Safety measures like installing a four-sided pool fence and maintaining vigilant and continuous supervision of children when near water, hold immense importance.

The first measure towards protecting toddlers and babies around water bodies involves maintaining steady and close supervision. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggest that adults should always remain within arm's length of the child during bathing or swimming, which they term 'touch supervision'.

Alcohol and other distractions like cell phones should be avoided when supervising children near water. In larger groups, assigning an adult 'water watcher' who keeps a constant eye on the children is recommended.

It's also crucial to relinquish this watch duty every 15 minutes or so, ensuring the watcher remains attentive. Understanding the signs of drowning is equally important. Contrary to popular belief, drowning is not always a loud and splashy event. It often takes a quiet, almost silent form.

Furthermore, enrolling children in swimming lessons helps them gain much-needed skills and dexterity for water safety. The AAP suggests children from the age of one could benefit from such classes. However, the decision depends on the child's physical and emotional readiness.

For the younger children within the age bracket of 1 to 3, consultation with a Pediatrician is advised before swimming lessons. Alternatively, the AAP advises swimming lessons for all kids aged 4 and above. The Red Cross, YMCA, U.S. Swim School Association, and USA Swimming all provide affordable local classes to help your child get started.

Swimming lessons cannot fully prevent drowning but do serve to impart valuable skills to children and are by no means a substitution for adult supervision. A suitable instructor for such classes would be a person adequately trained in CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) and first aid, instructing children about safety habits and self-rescue.

Besides these measures, there's another essential safety device - life jackets. Air-filled toys or floaties are not reliable safety measures. Life jackets approved by the U.S. Coast Guard are the best choice for children's safety.

Ensuring the right fit is critical. Children should wear them whenever they are in, on, or around natural water bodies. In swimming pools or at water parks, those lacking strong swimming skills should also wear them. Regardless, constant supervision is mandatory even when life jackets are in use.

Finally, learning CPR skills is extremely critical. It can indeed be the difference between life and death for a child in the time it takes for paramedics to arrive. Clear understanding, along with practice of these guidelines, can ensure a fun-filled yet safe day at the pool or beach.

Despite the precautions, it's important to remember the value of water play - it aids the development of numerous gross motor skills and provides abundant sensory activity. Be prepared, be vigilant, and enjoy your time at the beach or pool!