Health Notes: Summer Swimming Safety
● By Aimee Cormier
by Ellen S. Mullen M.D.
Summer is here and it’s POOL TIME! Time to enjoy the water and relax. The way to ensure that everyone is safe is to educate all family members and friends on the rules of water safety. Unintentional injuries account for 40% of childhood deaths annually. While the majority of these injuries are due to motor vehicle accidents, 11% are due to drownings. Approximately 390 children die annually from drowning and 75% of these tragedies occur in residential pools. Annually, more than 8 million U.S. children require medical care for water injuries. Drowning can occur in less than one inch of water.
So how can drowning be prevented? Fencing that is at least four feet tall and encases the perimeter of the pool has been shown to be a deterrent. These fences should have a self-closing locking gate which is out of the reach of children. The American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) recommends “touch supervision” instead of poolside adult supervision. This means that an adult is in the water and able to reach and grab a child. Oftentimes submersed children can be difficult to see and do not make noise therefore rendering poolside supervision inadequate. U.S. Coastguard approved flotation devices and the presence of lifeguards have been shown to decrease drowning risk. However, many flotation rings and armbands are not approved and may malfunction. The AAP feels that children are not developmentally ready for formal swimming lessons until the age of four and recommends that all children after this age attend lessons. However, completion of swimming lessons is only one part in drowning prevention strategy. It is important to ensure that drains will not cause entrapment in pools or hot tubs. Be aware that smaller children should never be left unattended even around small amounts of water. Bath seats or rings are not reliable for bath time and should be under constant supervision. Consider toilet seat locking devices for toddlers. Wading pools should always be dumped when not being used as well as remove ladders from above ground pools. These are just a few water safety rules that can help everyone to have a safe and fun summer.