How to Keep Your Children Safe from Drowning this Summer.
It is one of the most vivid memories of my life. When I was 10 my best friend Billy and I went to the YMCA in my hometown of Charleston, West Virginia to swim in their huge indoor pool. It was ok with my mom, because she knew that the pool was carefully supervised by trained lifeguards.
At one point I jumped into the pool. It was just a whimsical act so common of children. When I landed in the water, I immediately panicked. I couldn't touch the bottom. I went down once, twice and almost went down a third time swallowing more water all the time. The whole thing felt like it happened in slow motion.
Finally, I was able to get myself out. I don't know how I did it. When I got out of the water I was so sure everyone would be gathered around me to help. The funny thing: No one even noticed. I came that close to drowning in a pool literally full of other children and lifeguards nearby and no one had even noticed.
Kids can drown so quickly. It just takes a minute. Earlier in June a young boy drowned here in San Angelo. I can only imagine the pain these parents must be feeling.
Looking at Facebook this past weekend, there are literally hundreds of stories of children drowning in pools, lakes and beaches all across the country. Experts say, after two years of Covid restrictions, record numbers of people are hitting the water this summer. There are some basic rules parents and other can follow to help protect children in the water. They include:
1) Follow the "arm's length" rule. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, adults who are supervising children in the water should stay within one arm's length at all times. Even if you think your child is a "strong swimmer" stay nearby. Overestimating a child's independence in the water has led to many tragedies. Even a strong swimmer can get into trouble.
2) Treat Water Safety supervision like a job: If you're an adult in charge of kids in the water, doing anything distracting can be risky. That includes using your phone in any capacity, socializing, fiddling with a Bluetooth speaker or doing household chores. Drowning accidents have occurred in the time it takes for a caretaker to put wet clothes in the dryer or go to the bathroom. A good tip, is the 15 minutes rule. Have at least one adult assigned at all times to give full attention to children swimming. After 15 minutes, switch to another and so on. The risk of a deadly accident goes way up if one pair of mature eyes isn't devoted to watching you swimmers 100% of the time.
3) Do Not Drink Alcohol if you are the Adult in Charge of Children Swimming. It's not just about being intoxicated. Any amount of alcohol can dull your response time and make you less able to rescue a child in trouble in the water. The best strategy is to insist that anyone in charge of supervising children in the water must agree to be sober and that doesn't just mean alcohol. Use of any mind-altering substance, even some allergy medicine or other prescription drugs that cause drowsiness can prevent a timely response when a child is in trouble in the water.
4) Don't feel secure even in shallow water. A child's risk of drowning isn't equal to the depth of the water. Small children can drown in baby pools, bathtubs or tidepools. If there is enough water to cover their mouth and nose, and they can't lift themselves out easily, then they need supervision to prevent drowning.
5) Be ready to recognize what drowning or distress in the water looks like. Just like when I was drowning as a ten year old in the YMCA pool, while surrounded by people, if you don't recognize the symptoms of a child in trouble in the water, it can lead to disaster. Of course, seeing a child yelling or splashing is a sign of trouble. Also be on the lookout for subtle and quick signs like a child motionless or facedown in the water. A child who dives into the water but doesn't come up quickly could be easily missed. You must stay absolutely alert when supervising children in the water.
With this summer's heat soaring and the end of the Covid restrictions of the past few years, more and more children are in the water. Take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the rules, so you don't have to live with the grief and regret of losing a child in the water. We'll see you at the pool.