Near water this summer? Tips for keeping grandkids safe from water dangers

It’s almost summertime! That means visits to lakes and the seashore and maybe a backyard pool. But how safe are your grandchildren near the water?

The American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents, grandparents and caregivers to provide multiple layers of protection to keep children and teens safe around water this summer.

“Drowning is the single leading cause of injury death for children ages 1 to 4, and it’s one of the top causes of death for teens. In the summer, children often have more access to pools, lakes and other sources of water―all of which pose a drowning risk,” said pediatrician Sarah Denny, MD, FAAP, the lead author of AAP guidance on “Prevention of Drowning.”

Close, constant, attentive supervision around water is important. Assign an adult “water watcher,” who should not be distracted by work or socializing who can pay constant attention to swimming children.

“We can’t drown-proof kids, so it’s important to make sure that there is fencing and other barriers around water to make sure children can’t get into water when unsupervised,” Dr. Denny said. “When a young or unskilled swimmer is in the water, a water watcher or parent should be within arm’s length. Even when a child has learned to swim, water watchers should keep them in view constantly while swimming.”

But it’s not just large bodies of water that are dangerous.

Around the house, empty all buckets, bathtubs and wading pools immediately after use. If you have young children, keep the bathroom door closed, and use toilet locks to prevent access by young children. For toddlers, some of the biggest drowning risks are in the home, including tubs and toilets.

According to the AAP, proper supervision in the water—even if your child is learning how to swim―is one of the most important ways to help prevent drowning.

Drowning is quick, silent, and much more common than most families realize. It happens every day to children with loving, attentive parents and caregivers.

Here are tips to keep the grandkids safe around water:

  • Pay close, constant attention. Do not get distracted with other activities (such as reading, playing games, using the cellphone, or mowing the lawn), even if lifeguards are present.
  • Avoid using alcohol or drugs around the water, especially when supervising others.
  • For younger children and weak swimmers, get in the water with them. “Touch supervision” is essential! Even if you are not swimming but there is a pool or body of water nearby, always keep children within arm’s reach. If you must leave, take the child with you.
  • Don’t leave a baby or young child in or near any body of water under the care of another child.
  • Especially during parties or picnics at the pool or lake, when it’s easy to get distracted, assign a “water watcher” whose job is to constantly keep eyes on the child in or near the water. Take turns, passing along a water watcher card to the next responsible adult after a set time (such as 15 minutes).
  • Remember that the primary drowning risk for toddlers age 1-4 is unanticipated, unsupervised access to water. Children are naturally curious and commonly slip away unnoticed during non-swim times.
  • Always use life jackets when in, on or near natural bodies of water, such as lakes or rivers. Make sure they fit properly and are approved by the U.S. Coast Guard. Children. Weak swimmers should also wear life jackets when at a pool or water park.
  • Know how to recognize signs of distress and respond when there is trouble. Everyone, including parents, caregivers and older children, should learn CPR and safe rescue techniques to respond to a drowning incident.

Tragedies can happen to any family. Make sure you are doing all you can to prevent the unthinkable.

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