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Children and Pool Safety

It’s mid-summer and that means one thing: children everywhere are hitting the pools. With a month or so of swimming behind them, kids are now comfortable in the water which also makes this time of year a prime time for incidents. Follow these tips for safe fun in the water.

Watchful eye

Every year, more than 1,000 children die from drowning, with most being less than four years of age and under the care of one or both parents. What happens? Everyone begins to feel comfortable in the water, parents turn their heads for a few minutes and the incident happens.

Swimming is a great summer recreational activity but it’s different than other activities. Parents have to watch their children especially the young ones constantly, says Karen DeBord, Extension Child Development Specialist at North Carolina State University.

Before or by the time children are four they can begin swimming lessons and hopefully learn safety skills and how to be comfortable near water, she says. Though even children who are very good swimmers still need adult supervision in the pool. For affordable lessons, check out your local public swimming pool, community center or American Red Cross.

These tips will help make your swimming experience incident-free:

  • Take breaks. Swimmers should take a 10 to 15 minute break for every hour they swim. This not only helps the swimmer rest, but the parents as well.
  • Talk about the rules. Before your children hit the water, let them know where they can swim. Talk to them about the pool’s rules and your family’s rules.
  • Sunscreen. Always, always use sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 15. Most adult skin cancers can be traced to sunburns they got when they were children. With sunscreen, once is not enough. Reapply during every break.
  • Toy rules. Take toys out of the pool when you’re not using them. This will prevent children from going in on their own to retrieve them.
  • Water wings. Remember that floaties, water wings, kick boards and air mattresses aren’t a substitute for a life vest or adult supervision.
  • Keep it clean

Here’s another important rule to share with your children: Never swallow the pool water. Why? Recreational water illnesses (RWIs) caused by contaminated water in swimming pools, lakes, rivers or oceans can cause severe illnesses. Most commonly, RWIs cause diarrhea, but they also trigger skin, ear, eye and respiratory infections.

But, as important as it is to avoid RWIs, it’s just as important to avoid causing them.

Here’s what you can do to make sure you or your children don’t contaminate the pool:

  • Shower before swimming.
  • Help smaller children clean up after using the bathroom.
  • Change baby’s swimming diapers frequently.
  • Take your children on frequent bathroom breaks so they don’t have an accident in the pool.
  • Wash your hands and your small children’s hands after using the bathroom.