The Kid’s Doctor
Drowning is the leading cause of death for children between the ages of 1 and 4, and the second leading cause of unintentional death for children under the age of 14. Tragically, more than 390 children die each year in their own backyard pools. Let’s make sure your children are safe this summer.
The first thing all pools need is (at least) a 4-foot tall fence surrounding all four sides of the pool. Now is the time to make sure that not only is your pool fenced, but that it also is “tuned up” after the winter. That means that the self-latching gate is working, all pool furniture and toys are moved away from the fence so children cannot climb up and over a fence, and you might even add a pool alarm that goes off if anyone enters the pool without supervision.
If you have a door from the house to the pool there should be an alarm on the door, as well as having a fence around the pool. This ensures “layers of protection.” The more layers to keep your child away from an unsupervised pool, the better! Children are clever, fast and tenacious.
Now once you decide to enjoy a day poolside, you need to have several things on hand including a portable phone, a flotation ring or hook and an adult within arm’s reach of a toddler or young child who has not yet learned to swim. If there are several “non-swimmers” in the pool with only one adult, it is best to put all of the children in an approved flotation device as well. The adult who is supervising the pool should ideally know CPR. I personally think all pool owners should take CPR.
The person in charge of watching a child or children in the pool needs to be vigilant. That means staying off a cell phone or any electronics that might be distracting. It is also not the time for adults to be partying, and alcohol is discouraged.
Most children over the age of 4 are ready for swimming lessons, but the AAP does recognize that there are some younger children between 1 and 4 years old who may be ready for swimming lessons. Especially those that are frequently around water (home pool, lake, beach). Each child will develop at differently. Even a young child who has had swim lessons should not be considered “drown-proof” and never be left unsupervised.
Lastly, don’t forget the sunscreen, and remember to reapply frequently to both you and your child.
(Dr. Sue Hubbard is an award-winning pediatrician, medical editor and media host. “The Kid’s Doctor” TV feature can be seen on more than 90 stations across the U.S. Submit questions at http://www.kidsdr.com. The Kid’s Doctor e-book, “Tattoos to Texting: Parenting Today’s Teen,” is now available from Amazon and other e-book vendors.)
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