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Make a Splash with These Water Safety Tips

School is out, the mercury is rising, and swimming season is upon us. Unfortunately, this popular summertime activity is the leading cause of death in children between the ages of 1 and 4.

The best line of defense against drowning is to always keep a watchful eye on your child, says Jose Morales Moreno, MD, a pediatrician and assistant professor in the Division of General Pediatrics at University of Utah Health. While watching over young children, he advises using “touch supervision” by keeping them at arm’s length.

“By far, the most important tip is to never leave children alone in or near the pool,” Morales Moreno says. “Close supervision is an absolute must at all times. If possible, caregivers should be trained in administering CPR in cases of emergency.”

Start Them Young

Another key safety measure is to teach your child how to swim as soon as possible. Morales Moreno says many children may be ready to begin lessons by the time they start walking.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends swim lessons as protection against drowning, starting at age 1,” Morales Moreno says. “By their 4th birthday, the vast majority of children are ready for swimming lessons. If your child doesn’t know how to swim at this age, don’t wait!”

Ditch the Distractions

Drowning happens quickly and quietly, which is why it’s so important to eliminate all distractions while supervising your child in the pool. While on duty, stow away your phone, put down your beach read, avoid drugs and alcohol, and enjoy living in the moment with your young swimmer.

“Constant supervision requires a lot of concentration,” Morales Moreno says. “This is why it is better to assign this job to a water watcher and trade off this responsibility so no one person gets tired.”

Water safety ground rules

Buckle Up for Safety

Although they may give the illusion of safety, water wings and floaties (noodles, inflatable rafts, tubes, etc.) are pool toys. They can pop, float away, trap your child underwater, and even hinder swimming confidence. While shopping for safety apparel, look for a properly fitted U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket. Also, keep in mind that swim aids—and lifeguards—are not substitutes for adult supervision.

Secure Your Pool

A sparkling backyard pool makes summer so much sweeter, yet it can pose some serious dangers without proper safety measures in place. Here are some critical steps for keeping your fast-moving little ones out of harm’s way.

  • Enclose your pool with a four-foot or higher fence
  • Install alarms on the pool gate and house doors
  • Install a wave-detecting alarm in the pool
  • Pay close attention to pet doors
  • Keep rescue equipment nearby
  • Keep toys stowed away and out of the water

Don’t Be a Party Pooper

Swim diapers are essential for your little ones, but they do leak and shouldn’t be substituted for frequent diaper changing. Keep the pool safe for everyone by doing a diaper check or potty break every hour. Since soggy diapers aren’t ideal for communal pools, Morales Moreno recommends starting potty training as soon as a child is developmentally ready, which is typically around age 2.

Leave on a Good Note

While at the pool, kids often have a difficult time calling it a day—even when they’re overly tired. If your child is showing signs of dehydration or exhaustion, it’s time to pack it in. Symptoms include dry mouth, fussiness, crankiness, minimal bathroom breaks, and sunken eyes. With a long summer ahead, remind them there will be plenty more days for some pool time fun.