Ahh, the joy of cool refreshing water in a swimming pool right outside the back door of your home on a hot summer day. This can be bliss for your family and friends if all the correct safety measures are in place to protect children against entering the pool without proper supervision.
According to The American Academy of Pediatrics, from 1990 to 2000, drowning was the second leading cause of unintentional injury death among U.S. children between the ages of 1 and 19. Teaching your child to swim does not necessarily make him or her safe in the water. Unlike the movies, drowning children rarely thrash about but rather slip quietly under the surface of the water.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said 77 percent of the children had been seen 5 minutes or less before being missed and subsequently discovered in the pool.
Different methods of protection can be put into place that will create as close to a fail-safe system as possible. Supervision is the best method, but in 69 percent of the drownings, supervision was not in place when the accident occurred.
There are other measures that, when employed, offer secondary levels of protection. Some of these extra layers of protection include a fence completely surrounding the pool, locks placed high on the gates leading to the pool, alarms on the gates, swimming lessons when your child becomes mobile and CPR in case there is an accident.
Remember infants and children can drown in inches of water.
The commission offers the following tips for pool owners:
• Never leave a child unsupervised near a pool.
• Instruct baby sitters about potential hazards to young children in and around swimming pools and the need for constant supervision.
• Completely fence in the pool. Install self-closing and self-latching gates. Position latches out of reach of young children. Keep all doors and windows leading to the pool area secure to prevent small children from getting to the pool. Effective barriers and locks are necessary preventive measures, but there is no substitute for supervision.
• Do not use flotation devices as a substitute for supervision.
• Never use a pool with its pool cover partially in place, since children might become entrapped under it. Remove the cover completely.
• Place tables and chairs well away from the pool fence to prevent children from climbing into the pool area.
• Keep toys away from the pool area because a young child playing with the toys could accidentally fall in the water.
• Remove steps to above ground pools when not in use.
• Have a telephone at the poolside to avoid having to leave children unattended in or near the pool to answer a telephone elsewhere. Keep emergency numbers at the poolside telephone.
• Learn CPR.
• Keep rescue equipment by the pool.
Even though supervising children in the pool can be challenging, you will feel better knowing these security measures are in place to help make the time in and around your pool as safe as possible.
Sally Robinson is a clinical professor of pediatrics at UTMB Children’s Hospital, and Keith Bly is an associate professor of pediatrics and director of the UTMB Pediatric Urgent Care Clinics. This column isn’t intended to replace the advice of your child’s physician.