Water Safety Tips

— Written By Kay Morton

With summer “officially” right around the corner, what is one thing that children love to do to beat the heat? Go swimming, of course! But just because water activities are so much fun doesn’t mean they can’t also be dangerous.

In fact, as much fun as water can be, it may also be just as dangerous if not handled with caution and safety. Whether it be in a bucket, bowl, tub, sink, puddle, lake, pool, pond or ocean; it is imperative that parents remember just how hazardous water can be for young children. Remember, it only takes an inch of water for a baby or toddler to drown.

The best way to protect your child from accidental drowning is to remove even the smallest source of water from their play area, and if water is present, don’t take your eyes off the child even for a minute. If you’re at a pool or beach, it’s fine to let them splash and play to their heart’s content as long as you’re watching. You may want to wait to go to a pool or lake with your child until they can hold their head up on their own (usually by 4 or 5 months). Once your child is old enough to go into the water with you, follow these six water safety steps:

* Make sure the water is warm enough, preferably between 84 and 87 degrees.

* Pool water should be properly chlorinated, and natural bodies of water should be unpolluted and safe for wading.

* Don’t put a baby less than 6 months old under the water. Although infants naturally hold their breath under water, they continue to swallow.

* Take an infant/child CPR course.

* If you have a plastic wading pool, drain it and store it in an upright position after each use. If you have a permanent pool, make sure it’s enclosed with a fence that’s at least 4 feet high, and lock the gate leading to the pool after each use. After swimming, remove any toys from the water and deck.

* Make sure the pool or lake is equipped with rescue equipment and a readily accessible phone for emergencies. You may want to take a portable phone to the pool in case of emergency- and so you won’t be tempted to run into the house to grab a call.

There are many infant swim and water safety classes offered nationwide, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to enroll your child in one. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, swim classes for children shouldn’t be started until age 3 because swim classes seem to make both children and their parents overconfident. That doesn’t mean you and your baby can’t enjoy the water, it’s just a bit early to enroll them in lessons.

As soon as you start bringing your child into the water, begin practicing simple water safety rules such as: Don’t go near water without an adult, always swim with a buddy, don’t run on the pool deck or boat dock, and always jump in feet first. Although kids may get tired of hearing these rules over and over again, they will begin to know them by heart. By following these tips and keeping a close watch, you can ensure that your child’s summer swimming experiences are all just like a day at the beach!

Bill Stone is 4-H Youth Development Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.