Accidental Death by Drowning: Stop It From Happening to Your Child

Children wearing life jacketsTop 5 Water Safety Tips to Prevent Unintentional Drowning

Be the “On Duty Lifeguard”. Never take lightly the dangerous threat of the water’s dark side. Especially in the summer months, don’t let your kid become a grim children’s drowning statistic. Think “safety first” with fun-in-the-water activities.

Most children do not drown kicking, screaming, splashing, and yelling loud enough for the entire beach to hear the word H-E-L-P; contrary to common belief. It takes, literally, seconds for a child to “silently sink” in a body of water and drown.

Data shows that children up to Age 5 represent almost 75% of pool and spa deaths, AND injuries and deaths by drowning are still the #1 Cause of Death in Children under Age 4.

For this reason, when it comes to water activities at the beach, lake, and swimming pool, my “Helicopter Parenting” instinct kicks in with my 5-year-old child. I am his “Dedicated Lifeguard”, and he will tell you so, matter-of-factly.

In my lifeguard days at the beach, it was routine to conduct “body searches” in the water. Fortunately, but unfortunately, most missing children weren’t found in the water BUT were found wandering around the parking lot, snack bar, and shower and locker room areas.

The #1 Lifeguard Grievance: Some Moms and Dads would park themselves near the lifeguard chairs, and not pay attention to their children. Parents would assume the lifeguards were their children’s babysitters while they read, socialized, and sometimes even napped.

As a former certified lifeguard, here are My Top 5 Water Safety Tips:

1. Never Turn Your Back Away From Your Child.

Be in the water or at the water’s edge with him at all times, and turn off all electronic devices. This is not just limited to environments like swimming pools, hot tubs, and outdoor recreational water activity areas. This also includes being close to the everyday bath tub for young children. You are doing well if you feel like you are 100% “on alert” at all times.

2. Keep Partying to a Minimum.

Especially if you live on a lake, near the ocean, or own a swimming pool, outdoor parties are part of the summer fun. Don’t assume guests are watching your children. They are not. Alcoholic drinks impair judgment, and loud music can drown out signs of distress in which the drowning child dies unnoticed. I live on a lake and so do some of my friends and relatives. I can tell you firsthand that seasonal drowning incidents happen every year, and many have to do with partying parents not paying attention to their children.

3. Use a Life Vest.

In my state, the law is up to Age 12 for wearing a life jacket while boating. Whether or not there is a law in your state, I’d enforce this rule anyway. Swimming aides like floaties, kickboards, and noodles are not proper safety floatation devices. Especially if your child is not a strong swimmer, put a life vest on him even around a swimming pool area or playing in the sand at the beach. My neighbor’s preteen drowned when her canoe tipped over in rough water, and she was not wearing a life vest.

4. A Fenced in Pool Area is NOT Enough.

Install a security system outside, around the pool, AND inside of your house. Don’t forget about the pool and hot tub alarms, too. It just takes the alarm system being off once for a child to walk out the door. He will gravitate to the water. It’s a natural fascination.

5. Swim Lessons Help.

Yes, swim lessons help and are proven to reduce drowning incidents. Each year water safety and awareness advocates, like the Safer 3 Water Safety Foundation, advise parents to enroll their children in swim lessons. BUT, even the confident child with years of swim lessons may still need rescuing. So, never get too comfortable with your child’s water safety. Even the overly confident swimmer can wind up in trouble.

Article and photo are by Alicia Sakal. This was originally published in Yahoo! Parenting.


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