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Queens Chronicle

It Is Never Too Early To Begin Teaching Water Safety To Kids

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Posted: Thursday, May 16, 2002 12:00 am

In 1996, nearly 1,000 children younger than 15 years of age drowned in the United States. It is surprising to many parents that young children tend not to splash or make noise when they get into trouble in the water and thus usually drown silently. An adVlt should always be watching young children playing, swimming, or bathing in water.

Tips for General Water Safety

You can greatly reduce the chances of you and your children becoming a drowning victim or being injured if you follow a few simple safety tips:

1. Make sure an adult is constantly watching young children swimming, playing, or bathing in water. Do not read, play cards, talk on the phone, mow the lawn, or do any other distracting activity while supervising children around water.

2. Never swim alone or in unsupervised places. Teach your children to always swim with a buddy.

3. Keep small children away from buckets containing liquid: 5-gallon industrial containers are a particular danger. Be sure to empty buckets of all liquid when household chores are done. An infant or toddler can drown in as little as one inch of water.

4. Never drink alcohol before or during swimming, boating, or water skiing. Never drink alcohol while supervising children around water. Teach teenagers about the danger of drinking alcohol and swimming, boating, or water skiing.

5. To prevent choking, never chew gum or eat while swimming, diving, or playing in water.

6. Learn to swim. Enroll yourself and your children aged 4 and older in swimming classes. Swimming classes are not recommended for children under age 4.

7. Learn Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation. This applies particularly to pool owners and water sports enthusiasts.

8. Do not use air-filled swimming aids (such as “water wings”) in place of life jackets or life preservers with children. Using air-filled swimming aids can give parents and children a false sense of security, which may increase the risk of drowning. These air-filled aids are toys and are not designed to be personal flotation devices (life jackets). Air-filled plastic tubes can deflate because they become punctured or unplugged.

9. Check the water depth before entering. The American Red Cross recommends nine feet as a minimum depth for diving or jumping.

If you have a swimming pool at your home:

1. Install a four-sided, isolation pool-fence with self-closing and self-latching gates around the pool. Such a fence should be at least four feet tall and completely separate the pool from the house and play area of the yard.

2. Prevent children from having direct access to the swimming pool.

3. Install a telephone near the pool. Know how to contact local emergency medical services. Post the emergency number, 911, in an easy-to-see place.

4. Remove toys from pool immediately after use. Floats, balls, and other toys may tempt children to lean into the pool, and they may fall in.

5. Remember always to closely supervise children using the pool and insist that others do too.

Additional Tips for Open Water

1. Know the local weather conditions and forecast before swimming or boating. Thunderstorms and strong winds are dangerous to swimmers and boaters.

2. Restrict activities to designated swimming areas, usually marked by buoys.

3. Use U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices (life jackets) when boating, regardless of distance to be traveled, size of boat, or swimming ability of boaters.

4. Remember that open water usually has limited visibility, and conditions can sometimes change from hour to hour. Currents are often unpredictable, moving rapidly and quickly changing direction. A strong water current can carry even expert swimmers far from shore.

5. Watch for dangerous waves and signs of rip currents—water that is discolored, unusually choppy, foamy, or filled with debris.

6. If you are caught in a rip current, swim parallel to the shore. Once you are out of the current, swim toward the shore.

The Problem—Who Is Affected?

Water sports—like swimming, wading, boating, and water skiing—are fun and exciting. But they can also be dangerous for people of all ages. In 1996, nearly 4,000 people drowned in the United States.

Among children ages 1-9, drowning is the second leading cause of death from injuries. Near-drownings can result in brain damage.

Childhood drownings and near-drownings often occur when a child is left alone, even for a few seconds.

Most children who drown in pools were last seen inside the home, had been out of sight less than five minutes, and were in the care of one or both parents at the time.

How young children drown tends to vary by age. For example:

Children under age 1 most often drown in bathtubs, buckets, and toilets.

Children ages 1-4 most often drown in swimming pools, hot tubs, and spas.

Children ages 5-14 most often drown in swimming pools and open water, such as lakes and rivers.

Many people don't realize that alcohol use is involved in many drownings: 25-50 percent of adolescent and adult drownings involve alcohol use. In 40-50 percent of drownings among adolescent boys, alcohol is a major contributing factor.

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