Keeping children safe around water is a year-round task but as the weather gets warmer, the likelihood that children will be near or in water for recreational purposes increases.
In the U.S., drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional death for children ages 1-14 years old. In Colorado, drowning is the second leading cause of accidental injury death for children ages 14 and younger, behind motor vehicle crashes.
Even a non-fatal drowning incident can have lifelong consequences. Kids who survive a non-fatal drowning may have brain damage, and after four to six minutes under water, the damage is usually irreversible.
To help keep your kids safe, Safe Kids Larimer County recommends these safety precautions around water:
- Always actively supervise children in and around water. Don't leave, even for a moment. Stay where you can see, hear and reach kids in water. Avoid talking or texting on the phone, preparing a meal, reading and other distractions. Avoid drinking alcohol while supervising children.
- Never swim alone.
- Strongly discourage children from prolonged breath holding, breath holding contests, and prolonged underwater swimming as these can and have caused drowning and sudden death from passing out while in the water (called Shallow Water Blackout). As a swimmer reduces both oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, unconsciousness and death occur quickly, without warning. Physical exertion, repeated hyperventilation and breath-holding increase the risks of Shallow Water Blackout.
- Talk with teenagers about "risky behavior," including diving or swimming in unfamiliar water, and the dangers of alcohol or drug use when engaging in recreational water sports or swimming.
- If you have a pool or spa, or if your child visits a home that has a pool or spa, it should be surrounded on all four sides by a fence at least four feet high with self-closing and self-latching gates that lock. Studies estimate that this type of isolation fencing could prevent 50 to 90 percent of child drownings in residential pools.
- Teach children about the dangers of swimming around drains. Children should not swim or play near any drain or suction outlet.
- Make sure all pools and spas have compliant anti-entrapment drain covers and back up devices to ensure safer places for children to swim.
- Know how to swim and enroll your kids in swimming lessons. Swimming lessons will not make your child immune to drowning, but it is an important skill for both adults and children to learn. There is no substitute for active supervision.
- Don't leave toys in or near the pool, where they could attract unsupervised kids. For extra protection, consider a pool alarm and alarms on the doors, windows and gates leading to the pool.
- Don't rely on inflatable swimming toys such as "water wings" and noodles; these toys should never be used in place of U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets. If your child can't swim, stay within an arm's reach of the child.
- Learn infant and child CPR. In less than two hours, you can learn effective interventions that can give a fighting chance to a child whose breathing and heartbeat have stopped. Contact your local hospital, fire department or recreation department for information about local CPR classes.
- Learn how to use rescue equipment.
- Keep rescue equipment, a phone and emergency numbers nearby in case there is an emergency.
The Safe Kids Water Safety Guide is a great resource for keeping kids safe at home, at the pool/spa and on the beach or on a boat.