Water babies and swimming toddlers are the most enchanting sight. But while helping them take to the water and have fun is important, it is just as necessary to put thought and care to water safety for children. If you’re wondering if all the fuss around water safety is a bit of an overreaction, here’s some food for thought – drowning is the leading cause of death among children aged 1–4 years in the United States.1
Water Safety Is Crucial, Just 5 cm Of Water Could Drown A Toddler
Are you sure your young ones are well-protected and safe when they are swimming or near water? Whether it is a pool, the beach, or a lake, there are hazards you might not even have noticed. And when it comes to your child’s safety, it is certainly better to play it safe and be clued in on all the potential dangers so you are prepared for them. Here are just some of the places where your child may encounter water:
- At home: In the bathtub, hot tub, large sinks, swimming pools, fish tanks, or decorative water bodies around the home indoors and outdoors. Even a toilet or bucket filled with water could become a hazard with little toddlers and babies.
- At the beach: The seashore both by the water and in the ocean.
- At a lake or riverside: Both by the banks and while swimming or wading in the water.
- At waterfalls: Both manmade and artificial ones when you’re out camping/hiking, or in malls or at parks.
It doesn’t take a stormy sea or the deep end of a swimming pool to pose a water threat for a child. Remember, a toddler can drown in as little as five centimeters of water, which is something that you’re likely to encounter in most routine day-to-day scenarios.2
A child of any age is at risk of drowning, though the reasons vary. An infant is most at risk from bathtub drowning while a toddler or young child is more at risk near a swimming pool. While little kids may underestimate the risk and danger of water, older ones may overestimate their own swimming skills or wrongly assess the water condition or depth, putting them at risk of drowning.3 While that’s a sobering note, you should also know that most of these cases could probably be avoided if we all became a little more aware and took those extra steps for water safety. Read on and you’ll see how easy it can be.
1. Childproof All Water Sources At Home
Never leave your child unsupervised near any large water container, bucket, or pool at any time. Not even for a second. It could take under a minute for disaster to strike.
Here are some simple ways in which you can make your home safer.
- Invest in toilet clips that hold down the lid of toilets from prying toddler/baby fingers.
- Always drain out any large water containers once you are done with them, kiddie pools included.
- If you have a pool at home, install baby-proof (and toddler-proof) fencing so your little child doesn’t wander into it alone or unsupervised. A four-foot (1.2m) tall fence or one that’s even higher is necessary.
- When you’re not using the pool, always use a pool cover that can be secured and remove any access ladders if the pool is above ground. If there is a nearby slide, treehouse, or furniture which the child could use to access the pool, relocate it.
- Pick up basic water rescue and CPR skills so you can help administer first aid to your child in the event of a problem.
- Even when your young child is in the bath, they need your constant presence, especially if they are under 3. If you need to take a phone call or answer the door, take them out of the bathtub with you when you leave.
- Remember, no bath seat or bath aid can take your place. It is, after all, only an object meant to be used under adult supervision and will not be able to save your child from a potentially dangerous situation.
- If you have doors/windows that let out near the pool, you could even have them rigged with alarms so you know when a child tries to pry them open.4 5 6 7
2. Do A Recce Of Water Bodies When Outside And Avoid Leaving Kids Unattended
Even if you are just having a picnic or camping by the water with no plans to swim, be aware that an accidental fall could put your child at risk from the cold temperature of the water, currents, underwater hazards like jagged rocks not visible from the surface, not to mention drowning. Supervise them even when you are not swimming but are near water bodies.
Being an alert parent or caregiver can mean the difference between life and death for a child, so make that extra effort. Here are some things you can do to make your child’s water safety better even in difficult or potentially unsafe surroundings.
- Always do a quick scan of the area you’re in when you arrive or settle down at a new place indoors or outdoors with your kids. Look for any potential water hazards.
- Stay within arm’s length of your kid if they are anywhere in the vicinity of water.
- Children aged 5 or under must never be left unsupervised in areas where there are buckets, ponds, water troughs, streams or other water bodies. A stumble could send a young child trying to peek at something headfirst into a water container.
- If you take your child out boating, be sure they are wearing a life jacket. If you plan to rent a boat on vacation, always ask the rental company or person you are renting from if they have child-sized jackets. If they do not, carry your own.
- Never assume someone else is watching your child. If you feel you may not be able to do so, explicitly assign someone to do just this job and confirm that they are fine to take on the responsibility and will not step away or leave the children unsupervised.
- Find out about tide and currents at the beach from the lifeguard on duty before letting your children venture into the water. If you are by a lakeside or river, do not let them wade into the water without you – the shallow edges can quite suddenly give way to deep waters.8 9 10 11 12
3. Be Alert And Within Arm’s Distance Of Your Child At The Swimming Pool – Even If They Know How To Swim
Drowning children may not yell, splash, or scream, so don’t count on being warned by their actions or sound. As the experts explain, “child drowning is a silent death.”13
Just because your kids have learned to swim doesn’t mean they can save themselves from drowning. Even adults could develop a cramp in the middle of the pool or be caught off guard and drown. Which is why these precautions are important regardless of whether your child has learned to swim or not.
Buy flotation devices that are Coast Guard approved and within the weight and size recommendations. Don’t try and save money with an oversized vest or make them wear their old one past the weight recommendation. Kids under 5 need vests that have a strap between their legs and one that offers head support in the form of a collar to prevent their face from going underwater. Arm devices like water wings cannot protect against drowning.
- Check that there is a proper barrier between the shallow toddler’s pool and the regular pool. Sometimes, there are just steps and no barrier separating the two.
- It is important to always have an adult watching a child when they are swimming, even if they are in a shallow pool. If you do not swim or are not a strong swimmer or aren’t getting into the pool, be sure there is a lifeguard on duty.
- Never leave a child to supervise another child.
- Always be within arm’s reach of your child, supervising them by touch if needed.
- If you are out with a big group of kids, the buddy system can work wonders. Assign partners so each child looks out for their buddy and can alert the supervising adults to any hazards or potential problems or emergencies.
- Never put yourself in charge of a child’s safety after drinking alcohol. It impairs your judgment, could cause you to lose your ability to coordinate or balance properly, and also hampers your swimming as well as your diving ability.14 15 16
4. Lay Down “Water Rules” For Your Kids
Learn first aid and resuscitation. Also, keep emergency numbers (including your own)) on speed dial on a phone your child knows how to use. For very young children and babies, ensure the caregivers know where to find this information – ideally have it prominently displayed somewhere like on the fridge or by the phone.
It is important to get children involved in water safety from a young age. Older children too must be told the ground rules so they don’t get carried away and wind up injuring themselves or others while having a fun day of swimming at the pool or beach. Here are some things you should enforce. You can always add your own rules to this list!
- Do not run near the pool. You could slip or slide in by mistake.
- Do not push each other underwater or hold each other down as a game.
- Do wear a life jacket or safety devices for swimming when you are learning and if the current is strong or the pool deep.
- Do not think your inflatable mattress or inflatable toy can substitute a life jacket. One is a toy, the other a safety device. A toy might deflate and slip off you, jackets have built-in safeties to prevent this from happening.
- Do not dive into a shallow pool. If the pool is deep enough for diving, it may be indicated or you could check with the lifeguard. The shallow end is never deep enough to dive into.
- Do stick with your buddy and make sure you can always account for them.
- Do not go near any kind of water body, whether it is a creek, dam, lake, or pool without your parent/supervising adult.17 18
5. Make Sure The Water Is Clean!
Check for water safety activities for kids at the local swimming pool or for events around safety drives. You should also find heaps of resources online appropriate for all age groups of children. They might learn a lot about safety by coloring in sheets, reading a story, or doing a puzzle linked to water safety.
Dirty or contaminated water can pose a different sort of risk to children. Ensure your child never swims in discolored, smelly, or murky water so you can minimize exposure to infections. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call such infections recreational water illnesses (RWIs). You may catch them by swallowing, coming into contact with, or even inhaling water droplets from dirty water.19
Make sure your own family always showers off before entering any pool. Your children must use the toilet before and midway through their swimming session to avoid contaminating the water. If your child has diarrhea or a gastrointestinal illness, keep them away from the water until two weeks after the illness has passed.20
Temperature Safety Of Water Also Matter For Kids
How hot or cold the water is matters too. Use yourself as a guinea pig to quite literally test the waters for your kids before you let them jump in. The ideal temperature comfortable to most kids is 82°–86°F or 28°–30°C. When it comes to babies, the warmer it is within this range, the better. Anything under 70°F or 20°C will seem terribly cold even to an adult or experienced swimmers, so avoid swimming when it is that cold. It simply isn’t worth it. Hypothermia or heat loss from the body can set in quite quickly – much faster than on land. If you see your child shivering or complaining of muscle cramps, pull them out of the water right away.
When it comes to water temperature at home, be sure the bath or shower isn’t set to a very high temperature. Just a 3-second exposure to tap water at 140°F or 60°C can leave your child with a third degree burn! Their thin skin makes them more vulnerable to such injury, so turn the water heater setting down to 120°F or 49°C to be safe. And test it with your elbow (where your skin is thin) first.21
Protect Kids From The Other Elements Too!
It isn’t just the water that could cause problems for your kids when you’re out for a day by the sea or pool. Exposure to strong sunlight and ultraviolet radiation isn’t good for them either. Make sure you use a good sunscreen for them and get protective clothing if you can. Apply sunscreen often as it washes off and wears down in the water. Kids may also get dehydrated if they are sweating a lot or burning up energy and not rehydrating. Ensure they drink plenty of fluids even when they are mostly in the water.22
|↑1||Water Safety at Home. Safe Kids Worldwide.|
|↑2||Water safety for children. Department of Health & Human Services, State Government of Victoria, Australia.|
|↑3||Child Safety around Water – Inside & Outside the Home. Department of Public Health, HSE Midlands.|
|↑4, ↑10, ↑13||Water Safety Tips. National Water Safety Month.|
|↑5, ↑12||Water safety. Paediatric Society of New Zealand and Starship Foundation.|
|↑6, ↑14||Water safety. American Red Cross.|
|↑7||Water Safety at Home. Safe Kids Worldwide.|
|↑8, ↑22||Water safety. Nemours Foundation.|
|↑9, ↑16, ↑18||Water Safety: Tips for Parents of Young Children. American Academy of Pediatrics.|
|↑11||12 STEPS TO SAFE MOTOR BOATING ON INLAND WATERWAYS. Irish Water Safety.|
|↑15||Dopper’s Pool Safety Advice. Irish Water Safety.|
|↑17||Water safety. The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne.|
|↑19||Parasites, Water. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑20, ↑21||Water safety. The Nemours Foundation.|