Pools, lakes, ponds, and beaches mean summer fun and cool relief from hot weather. But water also can be dangerous for children if parents do not take the proper precautions. Nearly 1,000 children die each year by drowning. Most drownings happen in home swimming pools. It is the second leading cause of accidental death for people between the ages of 5 and 24.
The good news is there are many ways to keep your children safe in the water - and make sure that they take the right precautions when they are on their own.
Keeping Children Safe
Children need constant supervision around water - whether the water is in a bathtub, a wading pool, an ornamental fish pond, a swimming pool, a spa, the beach, or a lake.
Young children are especially at risk - they can drown in less than 2 inches of water. That means drowning can happen where you would least expect it - the sink, the toilet bowl, fountains, buckets, inflatable pools, or small bodies of standing water around your home, such as ditches filled with rainwater. Always watch children closely when they are in or near any water.
If you are not a swimmer yourself, it is a good idea to take lessons and learn how to swim. And children over 4 years old should learn, too (check the local recreation center for classes taught by qualified instructors). Children who are younger (but older than age 1) also might benefit from swimming lessons, but check with your pediatrician first.
Do not assume that a child who knows how to swim is not at risk for drowning. All children need to be supervised in the water, no matter what their swimming skills. And infants, toddlers, and weak swimmers should have an adult swimmer within arm's reach to provide "touch supervision."
Invest in proper-fitting, Coast Guard-approved flotation devices (life vests) and have children wear them whenever near water. Check the weight and size recommendations on the label, then have your child try it on to make sure it fits snugly. For children younger than 5 years old, choose a vest with a strap between the legs and head support - the collar will keep the child's head up and face out of the water. Inflatable vests and arm devices such as water wings are
effective protection against drowning.
Do not forget the sunscreen and reapply often, especially if the children are getting wet. UV sunglasses, hats, and protective clothing also can help provide sun protection.
Children should drink plenty of fluids, particularly water, to prevent dehydration. It's easy to get dehydrated in the sun, especially when kids are active and sweating. Dizziness, feeling lightheaded, or nausea are just some of the signs of dehydration and overheating.