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Summer's Arrival Brings Concerns About Water Safety and Kids


With the Memorial Day weekend, many of the nation's pools and beaches are now open - or will be open before too long. And with those openings comes the annual concern about protecting children from the hazards of being in or near water.
Those hazards present themselves in an instant and - more often than not - while parents or other adults were momentarily diverted by something else. "In many of the drownings we see, the parent or caretaker was distracted by something seemingly important like a telephone call and, as a result, a child was left alone in the bay, lake, pool or bathtub," says Dr. Joan Shook, the chief of emergency medicine at Houston's Texas Children's Hospital. "By the time the child was found, a significant amount of time had elapsed."
A hospital statement says that about 385 children drown or nearly drown each day, with the majority of those incidents occurring between Memorial Day and Labor Day. About 70% of the preschoolers who drowned last year were being supervised by one or more adults when the incident occurred.

Shook doesn't think teaching kids to swim at a young age is a helpful way to avoid tragedy. "It is an illusion that you can teach children to swim before they are capable of learning how to stay out of danger," she says. "Developmentally, children are not prepared for the elaborate coordination required to swim until close to age five, about the time they learn to ride a bike."

For kids age 4 and under, Shook says that parents should never leave their kids alone near any size body of water from a bucket to the ocean. She also suggests that parents learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR. "The likelihood of permanent disability increases with every second a child is not breathing," she says. "So while parents or caregivers are waiting for the paramedics, they should begin CPR."

Shook says that children between the ages of 5 and 12 should be taught to swim and taught the proper safety rules for swimming in pools or at beaches. They also should use appropriate floatation devices when on a boat, and should use caution when jumping or diving into water.
 

Read the next parenting article on swimming pool precautions >>
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