If there’s one summer activity that kids look forward to, it’s strapping on the swimsuit and splashing around in the nearest pool, lake, or pond with friends. It’s a beloved ritual of summer for kids of all ages, but enjoying the water means knowing how to stay safe. Approximately 1,000 children die each year by drowning, with most accidents taking place in home swimming pools. Drowning is also the second-leading cause of death for individuals between the ages of 5 and 24. So, before you get the pool noodles and floating rafts ready to go, make sure your kids understand the basics of swimming safety.
Children over 4 years old should learn how to swim, so look for a nearby recreation center, public pool, or individual instructor who can give lessons. It’s one of the most important safety precautions you, as a parent, can take. Even when your child has his swimming merit badge, don’t assume that you can turn him loose in the deep end of the pool and go work on your tan. Children, even those who can swim, can drown in just two inches of water, so keep an eye on what’s going on in the water. Crampingand hypothermia are dangers that can pop up unexpectedly, even under favorable conditions.
Water Safety Devices
Children under five should always wear protective swimming devices, such as a flotation vest or inflatable “floaties” or water wings they can wear around their wrists. However, be advised that such safety aids are not, by themselves, adequate protection. Water temperature is another safety factor that parents should pay close attention to; water under 70 degrees is generally considered too cold for comfortable swimming. The optimal range is from 80 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit.
A backyard pool, hot tub, or a clean pond can provide your children with hours of fun, but safety should always be a major concern considering the number of accidents that take place in the home every year. Most states require that a property with a swimming pool have a fencethat can be locked to secure the swimming area. A fence that separates the pool from your house is an ideal scenario. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that pool safety fencesshould be at least four feet high with no rails that can be used for climbing. The gate should be self-latching and out of your children’s reach.
Make certain your kids understand that no roughhousing is allowed in and around the pool. That means no running or jumping into the pool from the top of a fence or some other nearby object. And there should be no playing tag or rough games that could render someone unconscious. Make sure kids know that swim time is over if they get out of control, and keep the pool out of bounds until everyone settles down.
Swimming pools need disinfectants to keep dangerous pathogens like E. coli and salmonella from building up. Unfortunately, some pool chemicals represent their own dangers. Studies have shown that swimming in chlorinated watercan place children at risk for respiratory problems, hay fever, and asthma. Parents should be aware that chlorinated water can produce unhealthy by-products. A good rule of thumb is to avoid swimming in a pool where you can actually smell the chlorine. If your kids swim indoors, make sure the facility is properly ventilated. One of the most reliable precautions is to limit the time kids spend in a chlorinated pool.
Summer swimming should be a fun activity that everyone can enjoy. Play it safe by requiring your children to swim according to hard-and-fast, non-negotiable rules. Always keep them within reach and have a cell phone on hand in case of an emergency.
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