Pool Safety Tips Keep Everyone's Head Above Water

SUNDAY, May 13 (HealthDay News) -- Drowning is the second leading cause of death among American children ages 14 and younger, but a few simple measures can greatly reduce the risk of such tragedies, experts say.

Every year, about 760 children in that age group die from accidental drowning, and about 3,000 are treated at emergency departments after near-drowning incidents, according to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and Safe Kids Georgia.

It doesn't have to be that way, they say. "The most important precaution is active supervision. Simply being near your child is not necessarily supervising," spokeswoman Beverly Losman said in a prepared statement.

She noted that while 94 percent of parents say their supervise their children while they're swimming, many of those parents admit that they do other distracting activities at the same time, such as talking, eating, reading or looking after another child.

"A supervised child is in sight at all times with your undivided attention focused on the child. When there are children in or near the water, adults should take turns serving as the designated 'water watcher' paying undivided attention," Losman said.

She offered these other precautions:

  • Pools and spas should be surrounded on all four sides by a fence at least five feet high with gates that close and latch automatically. This type of isolation fencing could prevent 50 percent to 90 percent of child drownings in residential pools, studies estimate.
  • Consider a pool alarm and alarms on doors, windows and gates leading to the pool.
  • Pools and spas with a single drain should have an anti-entrapment drain cover and a safety vacuum release system to prevent children from being caught underwater in the powerful suction of the drain.
  • Don't leave toys in or near a pool where they may attract unsupervised children.
  • When children are about age 4, enroll them in swimming lessons. But don't assume that swimming lessons make a child "drownproof" -- they still need active supervision when swimming.
  • Remember that inflatable swimming aids, such as water wings, are not flotation devices and don't prevent drowning.
  • Keep rescue equipment, a phone and emergency numbers by the pool.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about children and water safety.

SOURCE: Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and Safe Kids Georgia, news release, May 2007

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