The summer season will soon be upon us, and many families will soon be heading to the beach. Sadly, it’s also the time when many children drown: An estimated 1,000 children fatally drowned in a single year in the U.S., most of them between May and August. In addition, more than 7,000 children are taken to the emergency room each year because of a drowning scare.
Those drownings most often happen in lakes, rivers, ponds, oceans, canals, reservoirs, retention ponds and other open water. A 10-year-old, for example, is three times as likely to drown in open water than in a pool. And older teens are more than eight times more likely to die because of an open water drowning than a pool drowning.
What families can do to keep kids safe
Watch kids when they are in or around water, without being distracted. Keep young children and inexperienced swimmers within arm’s reach of an adult. Make sure older children swim with a partner every time.
Make sure children learn how to swim. Every child is different, so enroll children in swim lessons when they are ready. Consider their age, development and how often they are around water when deciding if they are ready.
Make sure kids learn these five water survival skills: 1. step or jump into water over their head and return to the surface; 2. turn around and orient to safety; 3. float or tread water; 4. combine breathing with forward movement in the water; and 5. exit the water.
Teach children that swimming in open water is different from swimming in a pool. Be aware of situations that are unique to open water, such as limited visibility, depth, uneven surfaces, currents and undertow. These potential hazards can make swimming in open water more challenging than swimming in a pool.
Use designated swimming areas and recreational areas whenever possible. Professionals have assessed the area, and there are usually signs posted regarding hazards and lifeguard schedules.
Swimming in lakes, rivers, oceans and other open water poses hazards you won’t find in a swimming pool. Parents need to be aware of such risks as uneven surfaces, dangerous currents, cold temperatures and more.