The arrival of hot weather around much of the nation means many people are now opening the family pool for the summer. Pool owners and parents, especially those with young children, should always keep in mind the hazards a pool can pose. A young child can drown quickly and silently, often without any splashing or screaming. It can happen in just the few minutes it takes to answer the telephone.
Children are irresistibly attracted to water. It’s sparkly. Things float in it. And it makes a great sound when you smack it.
But water can also be dangerous. Hundreds of American youngsters drown each year. The age groups at greatest risk are toddlers and adolescent males. And for every child that drowns, another five kids require emergency department treatment for nonfatal submersions.
The key to preventing these tragedies is to have multiple levels of protection. The following precautions can help keep children safer around swimming pools:
Put up a fence or walls. Physical barriers that limit access to pools provide and extra layer of security. They give a parent or guardian additional time to reach the child before the child can reach the pool.
Fences and walls should be at least 4 feet high and installed completely around the pool. Fence gates should be self-closing and self-latching. The latch should be out of the child’s reach.
For above-ground pools, steps and ladders to the pool should be secured and locked, or removed when the pool is not in use.
Barriers are not foolproof protection from accidental drowning. Supervision also is key to prevention, especially with toddlers. Because their capabilities change everyday, toddlers often do the unexpected, like opening closed pool gates they previously could not open.
Remove toys. Don’t leave pool toys bobbing in the water when no one is using the pool. Children may try to retrieve a toy and fall in.
Cover it up. A motor-powered safety cover can provide a barrier over the water when the pool is not in use. The cover should withstand the weight of two adults and a child in case a rescue is needed.
Flotation devices are never to be used as a substitute for supervision, and knowing how to swim doesn’t make a child drown proof. Watch children closely while they are in the pool.
If a child is missing, always look in the pool first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability.
It is helpful to have parents, grandparents, siblings, and any caregivers to take a CPR class. This greatly improves drowning victim’s chances for survival.
Most children enjoy playing in water. It’s messy and noisy and fun. It’s hard to remember that something so enjoyable can also be deadly. Take the time to protect your children from the dangers of water – a playful friend that can steal their lives in mere minutes.