Safe Summer! Tips for the Pool

31 May

My 5-year-old son does NOT want to take swimming lessons.  But this year (after skipping last summer) I’ve already signed him up for a full summer of Saturday classes.  Case closed.  Though we don’t have a backyard pool, Chip’s babysitter does as do several of his best friends.  Regardless, to my way of thinking, swimming is a critical life skill.

The government agrees!

Here are some stats from the Consumer Product Safety Commission guaranteed to scare any mother:

  • An annual average of 383 pool and spa-related drownings for children younger than 15 occurred from 2006 to 2008; about 76 percent of the reported fatalities involved children younger than five.
  • An estimated average of 5,100 pool or spa emergency department-treated submersions for children younger than 15 occurred each year from 2008 to 2010; children younger than five represented 79 percent of these-injuries.
  • Children between the ages of one and three (12 to 47 months) represented 66 percent of these fatalities and 64 percent of the injuries.
  • About 72 percent of the fatalities from 2006 through 2008, and 55 percent of the estimated injuries from 2008 through 2010 that involved children younger than 15 occurred in a residential pool or spa; children under five made up the majority of incidents at residential locations, with 84 percent of fatalities and 61 percent of injuries, respectively.
  • Tragically, based on reported statistics, 96% of victims involved in a submersion incident will die.  Fatalities usually occur the day of the drowning event (72%).  For the victims who survive the event, most will succumb to their injuries within a week (24%).  Only 4% of near drowning victims will survive beyond a week, and many will have severe injuries and require intensive medical care.
  • There were no reported entrapment fatalities for 2010.  CPSC received three reports of entrapment injury incidents during 2010.

So what can you do to keep your tot safe? A lot! The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:

  • Never leave your children alone in or near the pool, even for a moment.  An adult who knows CPR should actively supervise children at all times.
  • Practice touch supervision with children younger than 5 years.  This means that the adult is within an arm’s length of the child at all times.
  • You must put up a fence to separate your house from the pool.  Most young children who drown in pools wander out of the house and fall into the pool.  Install a fence at least 4 feet high around all 4 sides of the pool.  This fence will completely separate the pool from the house and play area of the yard.  Use gates that self-close and self-latch, with latches higher than your children’s reach.
  • Keep rescue equipment (such as a shepherd’s hook or life preserver) and a telephone by the pool.
  • Do not use air-filled “swimming aids” (i.e. floaties) as a substitute for approved life vests.
  • Remove all toys from the pool after use so children aren’t tempted to reach for them.
  • After the children are done swimming, secure the pool so they can’t get back into it.
  • A power safety cover that meets the standards of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) may add to the protection of your children but should not be used in place of the fence between your house and the pool.  Even fencing around your pool and using a power safety cover will not prevent all drownings.

2 Responses to “Safe Summer! Tips for the Pool”

  1. Lori June 1, 2011 at 7:38 pm #

    Thanks for the tips and helpful reminders, Lisa. One comment I want to make is that when kids fall into the pool, there is literally no sound. It’s not at all like in the movies, with screaming and flailing arms. I was at a party a few weekends ago and a 4 year old who could not swim, accidentally fell into the pool. She was fully clothed and not one single adult (who were at sitting at a nearby table) heard or noticed, until another child (about 9) starting screaming that the child had fallen into the pool. Without even thinking about it, the child’s father jumped into the pool and retrieved the girl. She was fine and didn’t even utter so much as a cough, but everyone at that party was astounded. It happened quickly and silently. My suggestion for backyard pool parties is to hire a lifeguard, even if you think all of the kids can swim. At the very least an adult (preferably one trained in CPR) should be watching the pool at all times. Very scary to think about what “could” have happened!

  2. Jen June 1, 2011 at 8:00 pm #

    YIKES Lori, that is terrifying! My kids went to a well-known (and expensive) swim school last year, and they taught them some very important skills. First, they learned how to jump in and then turn immediately around to grab the wall by themselves – presumably, to mimic falling into the pool and what they should do if that happens. That’s something we constantly practice, especially with our 3-year-old.

    Also, they had my son (in the older class) jump in fully clothed and learn how to take off his clothes in the water and then get out. I never would have thought to do that! It clearly could happen to any kid, and even a great swimmer could have difficulty with the weight of clothes.

    Great idea to just hire a lifeguard for a pool party. Then no one has to say, “Oh, I thought YOU were watching the kids!”

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