Like the old song says, it’s summertime, and the livin’ is easy. Thousands are flocking to the country’s beaches, lakes, and rivers to have some fun-in-the-sun, or maybe heading poolside, either public or in their backyard. The sad fact of the matter is that while summertime frolicking in the water is a blast, it can also be dangerous, even deadly, especially for children. The numbers are startling:
Drowning is a leading cause of injury-related deaths in children under 4 years old and teenagers.
5% to 10% of all non-fatal drowning injuries leave the victim with severe brain damage and paralysis.
Children under 1 year old most often drown in bathtubs and buckets; kids 1 to 4 years old in swimming pools and hot tubs; young adults and teens in natural bodies of water (lakes and rivers)
African-American children ages 5 to 14 are almost three times more likely to drown than white children
No matter where you spend your summer, if you’re near water, follow these 13 water safety basics:
1. Swimming Lessons
Before the summertime fun begins, make sure that your children over 4 years old learn how to swim. Contact your local YMCA, Red Cross, or recreation center to sign them up for lessons from certified instructors.
2. Supervise, Supervise, Supervise
Whether you’re at a full-size swimming pool, wading pool, lake, or ocean, the number one thing you can do to keep your children safe near water is to keep an eye on them no matter what their swimming abilities. When it comes to young children or weak swimmers, adults should use “touch supervision” where they are always only an arm’s length away from the swimmer.
3. Never Let Kids Swim Alone
Even if your children are good swimmers, they should never be allowed to swim alone, especially in natural bodies of water (lakes, rivers, and the ocean).
4. Don’t Weather the Storm
When you hear thunder, even if it sounds like it’s miles away, make your kids get out of the water. Lightning can strike anywhere from five to 10 miles away from a storm.
5. Water Parks
Make sure the park you plan to visit has qualified lifeguards on duty and read all height, weight, and age restrictions before allowing your child on a ride. It’s important for kids of all ages to follow the water park’s rules—walk don’t run and when on a waterslide ride it feet-first, face-up.
6. Leave the Water Wings at Home
Water wings and floaties do nothing to prevent a child from drowning. If your child is a weak swimmer, then use only U.S. Coast Guard-certified life jackets.
7. Tides and Rip Currents
The ocean poses additional dangers, including tides and rip currents that can drag even the best of swimmers miles away from shore without warning. Teach your children how to escape a rip current if they should find themselves caught in one.
8. Watch for Warning Flags
When you head to the ocean for some fun, it’s important to pay attention to what the lifeguards are telling you. They will put up different flags for different conditions and it’s important to not only know what they mean but to act accordingly. Different flags have different meanings:
Green flags mean it’s safe to swim.
Yellow means that you can swim, but use extreme caution.
Red flags mean that swimming is not allowed. This could be for many different reasons, such as the presence of dangerous rip currents, jellyfish, or lightning.
Double red flags mean that the water is completely off-limits to the public. They’re typically displayed when a tropical storm or hurricane is approaching.
When you’re teaching kids about the flags, also instruct them to heed any warnings and directions issued by lifeguards.
9. Watch for Wildlife
In natural bodies of water, watch for potentially dangerous wildlife, such as snakes, jellyfish, and alligators.
10. Teach and Enforce pool rules:
No diving unless there is a designated area to do so
No pushing people into the water
No pulling kids under the water
No swimming without adult supervision – EVER!
11. Manage Your Backyard Pool
If you have your own backyard pool, install at least a four-foot-tall fence around it and keep the gate locked when it’s not in use—it’s the law in many states. While the fence will protect your child, it will also protect other neighborhood children by preventing them from wandering into your yard and jumping into the pool.
If you have an above-ground pool, make sure the ladders are removed and stowed away when not in use so curious children do not attempt to climb in. If you have a wading pool, empty it after each use and put it away.
If you’re at a pool party where there is alcohol, designate one person to stay sober to watch the pool and the kids.
12. Keep the Cellphone Nearby
In case of emergencies, your cell phone is your best friend. Keep it handy and charged. But, you should ignore the phone while you’re near the water. Your focus should be on the kids.
13. Learn CPR and Basic First Aid
One of the most important things you can do to save a child is to learn CPR and basic first aid. Visit the Red Cross or your local police or fire department to find out about courses in your area.
Written by Joe Cuhaj for Matcha in partnership with BCBS of AL and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.