By Ashley Abene
Summer break in Florida comes with heat, humidity and mosquitoes. Kids, desperate to stay cool, look for the closest body of water, such as a pool or going to the beach. But what normally is a fun-filled activity can quickly turn dangerous. Many parents may not realize that for children ages 1-4, drowning is the leading cause of accidental death, and, for 5 to 14-year-olds, the second-leading cause.
Sadly, drownings often occur within 10 feet of an adult (it’s quiet and fast). As parents and caregivers, what can be done to keep your kids safe in or around water?
First, be aware of nearby pools of water. Children should know to ask for permission to go near any water. Also, all pools and hot tubs need to have a safety fence. If a lake, pool or river is nearby, make sure that children are within arm’s reach (especially kids who are not able to swim yet).
Second, have a designated ‘water watcher,’ alternating watchers every 30 minutes. The water watcher makes sure to keep an eye on all children in the water and isn’t distracted (no texting or talking). Often, drownings occur because adults believe someone else is watching the kids since there are many other adults present.
Third, have someone available who knows CPR. Being trained in infant and child CPR could save a life.
Finally, teach survival swim skills and swimming to all children. Babies can even learn to self-rescue as early as 6 months old. There are many places offering swim lessons locally, such as: the YMCA, High 5 Inc., Kinder Swim, Watermelon Swim, Angelfish Swim School and several others.
The YMCA even offers a program for free called ‘Safety Around Water.’ Lacey Boldman, senior director of aquatics and swim at the Tampa YMCA, stated that the YMCA offers this program from “May 8-11, and then we are hosting it again August 21-24. The skills that we focus on during that program are submerge, jump, push, turn/grab and swim/float/swim. In addition to that program, during all of our regular group swim lesson programming (in the beginner stages), they focus on those important ‘self-rescue’ skills.”
These are just a few of the things you can do to keep your children’s summer break both fun and safe. You can check out more tips on water safety at the American Red Cross’ website at www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/water-safety.html.