Vail health: Parents must be alert around water |

Vail health: Parents must be alert around water

Jeff Brown
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado – With the tragic drowning death of a toddler over the weekend in Gore Creek in Vail, Colorado, it is a good time to remind parents and caregivers of steps that can be taken to prevent drowning.

Drowning is a leading cause of injury-related death in children. More than 1,400 children and teens drowned in the United States last year. Ninety-one percent of these deaths were unintentional and not related to boating.

For each drowning death, other children who fall into the water are left with permanent disabilities.

Here are some important things to remember:

• Children ages 1 to 4, should never be left alone – or in the care of another young child – while in bathtubs, pools, spas, or wading pools, or near irrigation ditches or other open standing water.

• Infant bath seats or supporting rings are not a substitute for adult supervision.

• Remove all water from containers, such as pails and 5-gallon buckets, immediately after use.

• To prevent drowning in toilets, young children should not be left alone in the bathroom

• Whenever infants and toddlers are in or around water, a supervising adult should be within an arm’s length providing “touch supervision.” The adult’s attention should be focused on the child, not on other distracting activities uch as talking on the telephone, socializing or tending to household chores.

• Swimming pool at home should be surrounded by a fence that prevents direct access to the pool from the house. Rigid, motorized pool covers, pool alarms, and other protective devices, which may offer some protection, are not a substitute for 4-sided fencing.

• Children are not developmentally ready for formal swimming lessons until after their fourth birthday, the American Academy of Pediatrics says. However, because some children develop skills more quickly than others, not all children will be ready to learn to swim at exactly the same age.

For example, children with motor or cognitive disabilities may not be developmentally ready for swimming lessons until a later age. Parents should be reminded that swimming lessons will not provide “drown proofing” for children of any age.

• Parents, caregivers, and pool owners should learn CPR and keep a telephone and life preservers, life jackets, and shepherd’s crook at poolside.

• Parents should not to use air-filled swimming aids, such as water wings, in place of personal floatation devices, such as life preservers.

• Parents should be certain that all people who will be caring for their child or children understand the need for constant supervision of children when in or around water. If children are in out-of-home child care, parents should inquire about exposure to water and water-related activities. Some states include in their licensing requirements staffing ratios for water activities. Parents should be aware of the ratios at their child’s site of care.

For parents of children ages 5 to 12, there are different drowning-prevention strategies:

• Children must be taught to swim. Knowing how to swim well in one body of water, however, does not always make a child safe in another. In addition to rules for safe swimming in pools, parents and children need to know the various safety requirements for swimming in lakes, streams, rivers, and oceans.

Drowning risk increases with depth, water temperature, currents, weather, hazards concealed in murky water, and access of emergency medical services.

• Children should never to swim alone or without adult supervision.

• Children should use plife vests whenever riding in a boat or fishing and, preferably, wherever they are at risk of falling into the water, such as when they are walking along a river bank

• Jumping or diving into water can result in injury. Parents should know the depth of the water and the location of underwater hazards before permitting children to jump or dive. The first entry into any body of water should be feet first.

• Drowning risks incerase in cold seasons. Children should not from walking, skating or riding on weak or thawing ice on any body of water.

• When swimming or taking a bath, children with seizure disorders should be supervised closely at all times. Showers are preferable to baths for situations in which the child cannot be supervised directly because of privacy issues.

For teenagers, ages 13 to 19, parents should counsel their kids about the dangers of drinking or using drugs while swimming, diving or boating. Boys are at much higher risk of drowning of suffering water-related injuries than girls, and therefore warrant extra counseling.

Teenagers should also learn CPR.

Communities can also take steps to prevent drowning. Communities can ensure their pools are staffed by lifeguards who are certified in CPR. Several states have passed legislation and adopted rules requiring lifeguards at lakes, beaches, and public and private swimming pools.

A drowning death like the one that just occurred with the toddler in Gore Creek is every parent’s worst nightmare. This is a tragic situation, but is also an opportunity to review practices that parents can use to avoid tragic drowning like this in the future.

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