Drowning is Quick and Quiet, So Keep Your Eyes and Your Mind on Your Kids around Water

 Topeka — It’s a warm summer day and you’re at the pool with your kids. Your cell phone rings and you answer it, shifting your focus from your kids to the conversation. Good idea? Not at all, according to Safe Kids Kansas. Children can get into trouble in a matter of seconds when around water, so Safe Kids Kansas recommends that parents actively supervise children when they are in or near the water.

 Drowning is the second highest cause of unintentional death for children ages 1 to 4 in both the U.S. and Kansas. From 2000-2009, there were 73 unintentional drowning related deaths in Kansans age 14 years and younger. Over half of these deaths occurred to children ages 4 and younger.

“Kids drown quickly and quietly,” said Cherie Sage, Safe Kids Kansas. “A drowning child can’t cry or shout for help. The most important precaution for parents is active supervision. Simply being near your child is not necessarily supervising.”

 Safety tips from Safe Kids Kansas to keep your children safe around pools and spas this summer:

  • Never leave your child unattended around water, even for a moment. We know it sounds strict, but there is no room for compromise on this one.  Stay where you can see, hear and reach kids in water. Infants or toddlers should be within arm’s reach of an adult at all times.
  • Put the cell phone away, forget about all the other things you have to do and give young children 100 percent of your attention when they are near or around water.  We know it’s hard to get everything done without a little multitasking, but this is the time to avoid distractions of any kind. If children are near water, then they should be the only thing on your mind.
  • Empty all tubs, buckets, containers and wading pools immediately after use. Store them upside down and out of children’s reach. Small children can drown in as little as one inch of water.
  • When there are several adults present and children are swimming, use the Water Watcher card strategy, which designates an adult as the Water Watcher for a certain amount of time (such as 15-minute periods) to prevent lapses in supervision. Download a Water Watcher card at www.safekids.org.
  • Every child is different, so enroll children in swimming lessons when you feel they are ready.  Teach them how to tread water, float and stay near the pool’s edge when they are first learning to swim, but don’t assume swimming lessons make your child immune to drowning. There is no substitute for active supervision.
  • Teach children to swim with a partner, every time. From the start, teach children to never go near or in water without an adult present. 
  • Remember that swimming aids such as water wings or noodles are fun toys for kids, but they should never be relied upon for safety and cannot be used in place of a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device (PFD).
  • Don’t leave toys in or near the pool, where they could attract unsupervised kids.
  • Make sure backyard pools have four-sided fencing that’s at least 4 feet high and a self-closing, self-latching gate to prevent a child from wandering into the pool area unsupervised. Consider a pool alarm or gate alarm to alert you if a child wanders into your pool area unsupervised.
  • Educate your children about the dangers of drain entanglement and entrapment and teach them to never play or swim near drains or suction outlets.
  • If you do have pool or spa drains, protective measures include anti-entrapment drain covers and a safety vacuum release system to automatically release suction and shut down the pump should entrapment occur. Go to www.PoolSafety.gov for a list of manufacturers of certified covers.
  • Keep rescue equipment, a phone and emergency numbers by the pool.
  • Parents have a million things to do, but learning CPR should be on the top of the list. It will give you tremendous peace of mind – and the more peace of mind you have as a parent, the better. Local hospitals, fire departments and recreation departments offer CPR training.

Even a near-drowning incident can have lifelong consequences. Kids who survive a near-drowning may have brain damage, and after four to six minutes under water – the damage is usually irreversible. Although 90 percent of parents say they supervise their children while swimming, many acknowledge that they engage in other distracting activities at the same time – talking, eating, reading or taking care of another child.  Remember, the most effective thing you can do to keep your kids safe around water is give them your undivided attention.

For more information about drowning and water safety, call Safe Kids Kansas at 785-296-0351 or visit www.safekids.org.

About Safe Kids Kansas 
Safe Kids Kansas works to prevent childhood injury, the leading cause of death and disability to children. Coalition members include over 70 statewide organizations, agencies and businesses and a network of local coalitions across the state. Safe Kids Kansas is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing injuries in children. Safe Kids Kansas was founded in 1991 and is led by the Kansas Department of Health & Environment.

This information can be made available in alternative accessible formats upon request. For more information about obtaining an alternative format, you may contact Safe Kids Kansas at 785-296-1223, or csage@kdheks.gov. Both speech/hearing disabled and hearing Kansans can access the Kansas Relay Center by calling toll-free 1-800-766-3777. Callers should inform the relay operator of the number they wish to call and the type of call they are making direct, credit card, collect, person-to-person, etc.

Visit us at www.safekidskansas.org and on Facebook.