Jul 28, 2014

Dr. Cindy Gellner: Summertime means water fun. Not only is it fun to play in, but it's also dangerous. Today we're going to talk about water safety and young children. I'm Dr. Cindy Gellner today on The Scope.

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Dr. Cindy Gellner: Water is everywhere, and it's also one of the most dangerous hazards your child will ever encounter. Young children can drown in only a few inches of water even if they've been taught swimming lessons. Swimming lessons aren't a way to prevent drowning in young children. They do help, though. Previously, the American Academy of Pediatrics advised against swimming lessons for kids ages one to three. They weren't sure if it really helped with better swim skills or anything. New evidence shows that children ages one to four may be less likely to drown if they've had formal swimming lessons. That's been the guidelines now for the past couple of years. Go ahead and let your kids ages one to four start swimming lessons. Make sure your children are supervised when they're in the swimming lessons, and also make sure that you take swimming lessons from a certified swimming teacher. There are several out there, and they're all really good. They know the guidelines. They know safety. The American Academy of Pediatrics still does not recommend formal water safety programs for children younger than one, but a lot of teachers are promoting it. As long as you're comfortable with it and you're with an accredited program, it's okay as long as you're in the water with them.
Even a child who knows how to swim, who's taken these swimming lessons, needs to be watched constantly. Whenever your child is near water you need to follow several safety rules. A lot of people are going to the lakes and everything, but you also have to remember bathtubs. Be aware of small bodies of water, bathtubs, like I just mentioned, fish ponds, ditches, rain barrels, watering cans, even the bucket of water you used if you're washing your car. Empty the containers of water when you're done. Children who are swimming, even if it's in one of those kiddie pools, should always be watched by an adult. If you can, be sure to take a C.P.R. class. The child should be within an arms length of an adult at any time. That's called touch supervision. That's especially important when there are little kids who have no idea how to swim or have not really been introduced to any sort of formal education.
Be sure to empty and put away those inflatable pools after each play session, too. Don't let the water just sit out. Not only is it a water hazard for kids to drown in, it also attracts mosquitoes. When you do go to the pool, make sure everyone knows the rules. The first big rule, and it's posted at every single swimming pool, is no running near the water. No pushing near the water. Kids can fall and slip and hit their heads on the side of the pool and drown. Make sure that they are safe and they know the rules of a public pool if they're going. Don't allow your children to use inflatable toys in place of a life jacket. If your child is young enough they need a life jacket. The toys that they may be using may deflate suddenly, or your child may slip off of them into the water that's too deep for them and they will drown. If your child is old enough to dive make sure they never dive in the shallow end. Again, they can dive in, hit their head, and that's a very bad situation. If they're near a diving board or they're jumping in even make sure the water is deep enough for them.
A lot of people have backyard swimming pools. They're not going to a big community pool. For backyard swimming pools you need to make sure there's a fence around it. The fence should be at least 4 feet high and it separates the pool from the house. It should have a self closing and self latching gate that opens away from the pool, and the latch should be at least 54 inches high so little kids can't reach it and just walk on in. You need to make sure that you keep the gate closed and locked. Your child should not be able to manipulate the lock or climb the fence, and shouldn't be able to climb under the fence, either.
If your pool has a cover be sure to remove it before swimming also. Completely remove it. Don't allow your child to ever walk on the pool cover, as water may have accumulated on it making it as dangerous as the pool itself. If your child falls through that pool cover, too, they could become trapped underneath. A lot of people, if they don't have enough room for a big pool in the backyard, they have a spa or hot tub. They're just as dangerous for young children. They can easily drown in the water or they can become overheated in them. Don't ever allow young children to use those without adult supervision. Finally, the biggest thing you can do as a parent is to eliminate distractions while your children are in the water. That means put away the phone. Put away the computer. Watch your children and wait until the children are out of the water to do those other activities. Remember, while pools are a lot of fun they can also be very dangerous. Treat the water with respect, learn the rules of the pool, and always have your children nearby so that you can watch them when they're having fun.

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