Always on Guard – Be a Water Watcher
In the heat of the summer we all think about water safety – but there are vital facts about drowning prevention that can save our kids’ lives. Letting down our guard in moments of unanticipated danger can make the difference between life and tragedy!
Do you know that drowning is the leading cause of death in children ages 1-4 and the second leading cause in ages 1-14?
Do you know that most children who drown are not expected to be swimming, yet they are found in water?
Do you know that a child can drown in less than one minute and silently?
As a mom and pediatrician, I consider myself hyper-aware of everything safety related, especially around water and kids. Yet still personally shocked by how close the devastating loss of drowning hits – in just recent months several medical colleagues shared nationally about their own child’s unexpected death due to drowning. If it can happen to the child of a physician, even pediatricians, it can happen to anyone! Whether it is a toddler getting past a pool gate accidentally left open or a child slipping through a door during family reunion in vacation house with a pool. We are all vulnerable and we owe it to our children to protect and keep them safe, always! It was the plea of these mothers sharing their own stories of unfathomable heartbreak and my eternally optimistic dreams for our future generation that prompted me to share this blog with facts aimed to increase awareness – the key to ending this LEADING cause of death, which is 100% PREVENTABLE!
We must always be on guard with designated “water watchers” and provide effective “layers of protection”. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), along with other national and state water safety and drowning prevention programs recommend the following tips:
Never leave a child alone near water (or in an area where they may have access to water), even for a few seconds.
Designate a Water Watcher every time kids are in or around water – this is an adult whose only job is to watch children (babies to teens) near water and should be familiar with water safety and know CPR. It’s important that they are not distracted by phones or impaired by alcohol/drugs.
Children (especially under 4 years) should be close enough to touch whenever they are near water. All collections of water are dangerous for infants and toddlers including bathtubs, buckets, toilets, ponds, spas, not just swimming pools, beaches and lakes.
Swimming pools and spas should have fences, alarms, and drains that meet regulations. Proper flotation devices should be accessible and life vests should be used when children are in or around water.
Kids can slip away from the watchful eyes of adults in seconds. It happens every day. Help keep children safe at home ―all year long―in your own backyard, your neighbor’s, and on vacation.
Drownings happen quickly and are often silent – It’s not like in the movies. A child drowning is rarely heard. Alarms break that silence. Beyond a fence, additional layers of protection such as pool alarms, door gate window alarms, and pool covers can provide some added safety. Keep in mind, none are substitutes for proper supervision and fences only work if latched – never prop open doors or leave gates unlocked. House doors (even sliders and doggy doors) should be locked if a child could get to water through them.
A study of drownings among children age 4 and under in Arizona, California, and Florida, where pools are especially common, found that nearly 70% of the children were not expected to be at or in the pool, yet they were found in the water. In fact, 46% of the children were last seen in the house.
Between 2013 and 2015, 58% of drownings among children age 4 and under took place in a pool or spa at their own home. Most children drowned when they wander out of the house and fell into a swimming pool that was not properly fenced or slipped out a door, climbed out a window, or even crawled through a doggy door to access the pool.
Family swimming pool isn’t the only one a child can get into unnoticed. More than a quarter (27%) of drownings among children age 4 and under took place at the home of a friend, relative or neighbor. Whenever your child will be in someone else’s home, always check for ways your child could access pools and other potential hazards.
Be aware of potential risk factors – boys had twice as many fatal child drownings as girls and about half of Hispanic and African-American children have no or limited swimming ability.
Even with safety measures in place, parents should be prepared in case that their child gets into a swimming pool unseen.
- Life jackets: Put your child in an approved life jacket when around water – including pools, boating and beaches
- Swim lessons. The AAP supports swimming lessons for most children 4 years and older. Children over age 1 may be at a lower risk of drowning if they have had some formal swimming instruction. However, there is no evidence that swimming lessons or water survival skills courses can prevent drowning in infants younger than 1 year of age.
- CPR training. Parents, caregivers, and pool owners should know CPR and how to get emergency help
- If a child is missing, check the water first.
What else can parents do? Always be on guard and spread the word about the importance of a designated water watcher and maintaining layers of protection. Share this blog and resources listed below on social media and with family, friends, and neighbors.
This blog is by Dr. Kyrra Moffatt, pediatrician at La Mesa Pediatrics and mother of two children – written from the heart, supported with research and excerpts taken from the following references.
- Prevention of Drowning (AAP policy statement & technical report)
- Where We Stand: Water Safety (HealthyChildren.org)
- Staying Safe Around Swimming Pools (AAP YouTube Channel)
- Help Keep Families Safe Around Water as they Soak Up Summer (AAP Voices)
- Safety Barrier Guidelines for Residential Pools: Preventing Child Drownings (U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
Additional links for families:
Help Splish & Splash learn how to be safer around water with the free & recently-updated #PoolSafely app for kids! http://1.usa.gov/1OE4gwa
Do you know how to #PoolSafely? Learn 4 simple steps to stay safer around the water w/ @LaurieBerkner: bit.ly/LBPoolSafely
Un niño puede ahogarse en menos tiempo que romper un récord mundial. Siempre designe un adulto observador de agua. Http://bit.ly/2nwEmDS [A child can drown in less time than it takes to break a world record. Always designate an adult Water Watcher. http://bit.ly/2nwEmDS]
Recuerde: Pasos sencillos para salvar vidas! Revise estos consejos de #PiscinaSegura antes de ir a la piscina: http://bit.ly/2kADuQa [Remember: Simple Steps Save Lives! Review these #PoolSafely tips before going to the pool with your family: http://bit.ly/2kADuQa]
To download the Pool Safely app on iPhone or Android: http://www.poolsafely.gov/parents/kids-corner/