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Heathy Kids: Playing safe around water

(Photo via Kelli Warner / Healthy Kids)

During the summer, more kids spend time playing outside around water than any other season of the year. While it’s a great way to cool off and have fun, water also can be dangerous, especially for younger kids. Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death in children ages 1-4.

“If you’ve ever gone to the public pool with your child when it’s busy, it’s kind of like a ‘Where’s Waldo?’ situation. It’s very difficult to visually keep an eye on your kid; it takes tremendous concentration,” says Dr. Pilar Bradshaw with Eugene Pediatric Associates.

Make supervision a priority

To help protect your children around any body of water, keep a vigilant eye on them. Designate one adult whose sole responsibility is to supervise kids in the water.

“Put your phone away. This is not a time to be reading a book or working on your laptop. If you’re with other adults, don’t get distracted by conversation. The designated ‘watcher’ should have their eyes and attention on the water,” Dr. Bradshaw says.

Never assume that a child who knows how to swim is not at risk for drowning. All kids need to be supervised in the water, no matter their swimming skills. If a child is under the age of 5, the supervising adult should be within arm's length, providing "touch supervision."

Wear life jackets

Invest in properly fitting, Coast Guard-approved life vests, and have kids wear them whenever they are near water. Pool toys, water wings and other floaties are not reliable flotation devices and may give children and parents a false sense of security.

“Do not depend on inflatable swimming aids,” says Dr. Bradshaw. “The only thing that we believe really helps keep kids safe in the water is an actual life vest.”

Additional safety around pools, spas and hot tubs

From Memorial Day through Labor Day 2017, at least 163 children younger than age 15 drowned in swimming pools or spas, according to media reports compiled by the USA Swimming Foundation. Of the 163 reports, nearly 70 percent were children younger than age 5. If your family has a pool, spa or hot tub, or will be spending any time around one, follow these safety tips.

Boating and open-water safety

Lakes, rivers and the ocean are also popular destinations for family fun. If you and your children will be boating or swimming in open water, the American Academy of Pediatrics provides these safety recommendations.

Other sources of standing water

Young children can drown in less than 2 inches of water. That means even small sources of standing water can pose a risk.

“A toddler’s head is large; it will tend to fall in first. Their face and airways are small, so even in just an inch or two of water, they can drown quickly,” says Dr. Bradshaw. “That means, your pond, your wheelbarrow, buckets full of water from the winter, anything that has water in it is a hazard to small kids.”

What to do in a drowning emergency

While you hope it never happens, it’s important to know what to do in an emergency. Familiarize yourself with these tips to help you prepare. For more information on local CPR training and swim classes, click here.

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