Swim Season Safety
Swimming is so much fun but a healthy respect for the inherent dangers is essential!
Memorial weekend is days away, and for the water lovers amongst us, it means the beginning of swim season. Whether it’s a public pool, a neighborhood pool, your own backyard pool or one of the many beautiful Oklahoma lakes, these bodies of water have a few things in common: the potential for fun times and the potential for heartbreaking tragedy. Before the season starts, be aware of the facts and take proper precautions. The statistics are frightening and shouldn’t be ignored. Children under the age of five are at the highest risk of drowning. About 350 children drown each year, and the majority are under the age of five. Drowning has become the number one cause of accidental death for children under five. For kids under one the bathtub is the most common site, but for older toddlers and preschoolers it’s the swimming pool. It doesn’t have to be a big pool; drownings can easily occur in baby pools with a few inches of water. Follow these precautions for a summer of safe water fun.
1. Adult supervision is the best protection against drowning. When a child is in the pool there must be an adult watching them. This does not mean being on the phone, reading a book or talking with friends while watching the kids. Complete focus needs to be on the children in the water.
2. Make sure your grandchildren take swim lessons. There are many places in Tulsa that offer lessons, but no matter how good your grandchild can swim you must still practice strict vigilance in watching children in the water! The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that swim lessons are not a proven method to prevent drowning. No matter how people advertise their classes, no one is “drown proof,” and it’s dangerous for parents to believe this marketing. Some may argue this with me and that’s fine, but what if I’m right–is it worth risking your grandchild’s life?
Callister taking swim lessons at Miller Swim School.
3. Make sure there are proper barriers around your pool. There should be a fence with a childproof latch, a cover and an alarm. Even with these barriers in place, don’t underestimate the ability of a determined toddler combined with the lure of a pool. Consider installing door alarms on all doors leading outside and don’t forget to block the doggie door. Fences can be climbed and covers can be crawled under. Nothing replaces constant supervision.
4. Even young kids can be told the rules: never go into the pool without a grown up! Although they should have this rule repeated often, kids learn with repetition; don’t count on them obeying.
5. Make sure your pool is equipped with rescue devices; a shepherd’s hook, a ring buoy and a rescue tube.
6. Keep toys away from the pool area when not in use. Toys left out can be a powerful attraction for children.
7. If you notice a child missing, the very first place you should check is the pool! Three out of four young drowning victims were missing less than five minutes.
8. All grandparents, whether you own a pool or not, should know CPR. It’s not difficult, and it could save your grandchild’s life. Contact the Red Cross for a class schedule.
The above tips are focused on pool swimming, but I will add one rule for lake swimming that must be nonnegotiable: Life jackets are an absolute must! This is true whether swimming in the designated swim areas or riding in a boat. Yes, there will be some fussing, but I would much rather hear some whining than never hear their voices again. Adults need to set a good example and also wear life jackets.
If you don’t have a backyard pool but instead take your kids or grandkids to a public, club or YMCA pool, don’t get lax and depend on the lifeguards to keep your grandkids safe. There are many fabulous lifeguards, but I’ve also witnessed some less than stellar guards busy looking at their phone or mentally drifting. Even the best lifeguards usually have a lot of kids to watch and could miss a little one going under. Drownings happen quickly, within seconds. Contrary to the dramatic scenes on television, screaming and thrashing are rarely given as a warning signal for impending drowning. It is almost always silent, with the child quietly slipping under water.
Having presented all these scary facts, I also must say I love taking my grandson swimming whether it’s at the YMCA, a friend’s backyard pool or the blow-up kiddie pool in our backyard. During Oklahoma summers almost nothing feels better than jumping in a cold pool. My intent is not to discourage you from enjoying the water with your children and grandchildren but to help you be fully aware of the dangers. Have fun swimming but take all the safety precautions possible!
I’m looking forward to another fun summer at the pool with my grandson!