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Water-Safety Essentials for Parents

Drowning remains a leading cause of death for children

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SATURDAY, July 27 (HealthDay News) -- On a hot summer day, pools, lakes and beaches beckon children and teens. But adults need to make sure youngsters are safe when they're playing in and around water, experts say.

"Children can drown in even the smallest body of water, including toilets, decorative fountains, portable pools, buckets and bath tubs," Dr. Wendy Pomerantz, an emergency-room physician at Cincinnati Children' Hospital Medical Center, said in a hospital news release. "Anytime you have a standing body of water that is accessible, make sure you supervise your child at all times."

Drowning rates in the United States have declined over the past 25 years, but drowning is still the second leading cause of injury-related death for children aged 1 to 18.

Pomerantz and the American Academy of Pediatrics offer tips on how to keep children safe while they're in and around water:

  • All caregivers should learn CPR.
  • Swimming lessons are recommended for children aged 1 to 4. Research suggests that children may be less likely to drown if they've had swimming lessons, but teaching your child how to swim does not guarantee they are safe in water.
  • Never leave children alone in or near pools, including inflatable and other children's pools. An adult should be within arm's length, providing "touch supervision." If you use an inflatable or plastic pool, be sure to dump the water out of the pool after each use and turn the pool upside down.
  • Install a fence at least 4 feet high around all sides of the pool. Such fences can cut the drowning risk in half. Pool covers and pool alarms are not a substitute for fencing. Make sure pool gates self-close and self-latch at a height that small children can't reach.
  • Make sure there is a telephone by the pool in case of an emergency. Keep rescue equipment nearby, including a shepherd's hook (a long pole with a hook on the end) and a life preserver.
  • Never leave a toy in or around a pool. Avoid inflatable swimming aids such as floaties. They are not a substitute for approved life vests and can give children a false sense of security.
  • Teach children to never run, push or jump on others around water and never to swim alone. Talk to teenagers about the increased risk of drowning when alcohol is involved.
  • Never leave children alone in or near a bathtub, even for a minute. There are no "bath seats" that are proven to be safe and prevent drowning.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about children and water safety.

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