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Swimming Safety Tips

While splashing around in the pool may be your child’s favorite summer activity, there are unfortunately many safety risks and hazards associated with swimming. Did you know more Texas kids ages 1–4 die from drowning than any other cause except birth defects? The stats are scary. As a parent, your child’s safety is your number one priority. So we talked to two local swim school owners – Jan Emler of Emler Swim School and Linda DeSanders of Dolfin Swim School – to get their expert advice on keeping infants and children safe in the water. 

Never let your child swim alone
No matter how good a swimmer you believe your child is, she should never be allowed to swim alone. Whether your child is a toddler just splashing around in the shallow end or a tween that can swim Olympic-sized laps, there are numerous risk factors your child might not even think about when swimming alone. “I might not know how deep a lake is, or I could bump my head on the side of the pool,” says DeSanders, naming two incidents where even she, a swim instructor, would be in trouble. Having a swimming buddy can significantly reduce the chances of getting yourself in danger; however, Emler points out that many tragedies occur every year when a child tries to save his friend from drowning. “Children can best help by making a lot of noise to attract attention and by finding an adult to help,” Emler says.
Enroll your child in swimming lessons
Even if you don’t think your child will be the next Michael Phelps or Missy Franklin, swimming lessons can help your child learn how to swim while also reinforcing safety concepts and giving them confidence in the water. “The skill of swimming increases the chance of surviving a water emergency for all ages,” Emler says. In fact, swimming lessons reduce the risk of drowning in children ages 1–4 by 88 percent. It’s one of the few proven ways to help ensure your child’s safety in the water and teach him skills that might one day save his life.
Use lifejackets
If your child hasn’t taken swim lessons yet or isn’t very confident in the water, Emler and DeSanders both stress that lifejackets are a great way to help a child survive a water emergency. Even good swimmers can benefit from wearing a lifejacket to help them in unexpected circumstances, such as falling off a moving boat.
Watch your child at all times
Since the act of drowning is usually silent, it’s crucial to make sure you are watching your child at all times while she is in the water. Emler and DeSanders both advise parents to practice “touch supervision,” which means that while your child is in the water, you should always be close enough to touch your child. This approach helps parents stay aware in the event that their child encounters danger in the water, whether you’re at your pool, a friend’s pool or a public pool with a lifeguard.
Install a fence around your pool
Another proven way to prevent drowning is to install a four-sided fence with a self-latching gate around your pool. “Studies are showing around 70 percent reduction of drowning for preschoolers with a barrier like this interior fence,” Emler says. DeSanders adds that it is extremely important to keep your door alarms on at all time to act as a warning if your child wanders outside.
Remove temptations
DeSanders says you can reduce the risk of drowning by removing any toys that are floating at the top of the pool. “It entices the child to jump in, and no one might be there to save them,” Desanders warns. Also, make sure to cover your spa or whirlpool, which are often shallower than pools but still pose similar risks.
Be prepared if the worst happens
Even with all the safety precautions that you can take, you can never be too prepared for a water emergency. DeSanders suggests that parents take a CPR course that covers both infant and child CPR to be educated in all aspects of the lifesaving technique. Lastly, if all of your actions are not successful, you need to call 911 immediately in case of an emergency; Emler recommends keeping a phone nearby whenever your child is swimming.
For more information about how to prevent drowning, go to lonestarlifesavers.org.
Updated May 2014