Medical Watch: Tips for summer swim safety and drowning prevention

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Alison Tothy, MD; Pediatric Emergency Medicine Physician; University of Chicago Comer Children's Hospital

Tips for summer swim safety and drowning prevention:

Whatever age your child, parents should take steps to protect them from drowning. You need more than one strategy, which is why AAP recommends “layers of protection”:

1.     Supervision is essential. When infants or toddlers are in or near water, practice “touch supervision” with an adult within arm’s reach at all times. With older children, an adult must be constantly watching. The adult should not be distracted by a cell phone, socializing, tending chores, or drinking alcohol. Supervision must be close, constant and attentive.

2.     If you have a pool, it should be surrounded by a four-sided fence that is at least 48 inches tall, with self-closing and self-latching gates that isolate the pool from the house and the rest of the yard. Fencing prevents more than 50% of swimming pool drownings of young children. Pool alarms and rigid pool covers may provide additional layers of protection, but are not enough.

3.     Empty buckets and bathtubs and wading pools after every use. If you have young children, install toilet locks and bathroom locks. Do not use infant bath seats; infants can slip out of them and drown in just a few inches of water.

4.     Adults and older children should learn CPR.

5.     Children and parents need to learn to swim. Swim lessons may reduce the risk of drowning, When to start swim lessons will be an individual decision for parents, based on their child’s development, frequency of exposure to water, emotional maturity and health concerns related to swimming pools.

6.     Everyone, children and adults, should wear US Coast Guard-approved life jackets whenever they are in or on watercraft. Small children and non-swimmers should wear life jackets when they are near water and when swimming. Inflatable “floaties” can’t be relied upon to protect kids.

7.     Parents and teens should understand how using alcohol and drugs increases the risk of drowning while swimming boating.

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