For many people, the Memorial Day weekend is the official kickoff of summer. And while lounging at the lakeside, poolside, or seaside sounds relaxing, it’s important for adults to always be alert and present so that their little ones can enjoy their summer splashes safely.
If your family is planning on enjoying the water this summer, make sure you keep these tips in mind:
- Designate a “water watcher.” Undistracted adult supervision is one of the most important things you can do to prevent accidental drowning. Whenever little ones are near water, be sure to designate at least one adult to be a “water watcher,” and ensure that person is not distracted by their phone, reading, or other adults. Young children should never be more than an arm’s reach away from a supervising adult, and older kids should always swim with a buddy, never alone. While phones should be kept away to reduce the risk of distraction, it’s important for a supervising adult to have quick access to one in case of emergency.
- Enroll in a swim class. Enrolling your child in a swim class can help them become more confident swimmers and can help reduce the risk of an accidental drowning. Swim classes teach essential skills, like how to enter the water safely, tread water or float, and exit the water safely. Look for classes in your area and consider attending as a parent volunteer.
- Follow all posted rules and stay near a lifeguard. If you’re enjoying the day at the pool or beach, be sure to follow all posted rules and guidelines. If you’re swimming in a location that has lifeguard(s) on duty, it’s a good idea to stick near them, and always obey their instructions. Remember: the lifeguard is not the adult supervision; that still is the role of your “water watcher.” Lifeguards are additional eyes on all those in their water space.
- Install a pool fence. Barriers like locking fences and gates around swimming pools are essential tools for preventing unsupervised access to the pool. Pool fences should be at least 4 feet tall and should have a self-latching mechanism to prevent a child from wandering into the pool area.
- Open bodies of water will look different this year. Create a special water safety plan if you and your family are going to enjoy rivers or lakes this year. Pay close attention to the signs near these areas and follow the posted rules. These waterways will look much different from years past due to the increased rain from the winter and the coming snow melt.
- Get CPR certified. Look for CPR classes in your community to learn CPR and other basic rescue skills that are essential to know in an emergency. Learning these skills can be lifesaving.
- Life jackets, not floaties. Many people think that air-filled toys like floaties or pool noodles are the same as a life jacket, but this could be a dangerous misbelief. Always use Coast Guard approved life jackets as flotation devices, not floaties, pool noodles, or other air-filled toys. Children can easily slip off of these devices, making them very unreliable for safety. Put these toys away when you’re not using them; toys stored in or near the edge of the water may attract small children, who could fall into the water.
As spring melts into summer, families across the Valley are looking forward to splashing into the season. We wish you all a very fun – and safe – summer!
About the Author
Mary Jo Quintero, RN, is a trauma nurse with Valley Children’s Hospital Emergency Department and is also the program coordinator for Valley Children's Water Safety Program. She is passionate about educating families about drowning prevention and ways to stay safe while having fun in the water.