June 21st marks the first day of Summer for 2015, but after Memorial Day a couple weekends ago, pool season is already under way. So what better timing than now, to address water safety? (for a quick jump to info on what to do in the event of drowning, click here)
Almost every new parent wonders “what should I make sure I’m doing?” when it comes to introducing your baby to water, and even if your baby already loves the water, you still want to be sure you’re doing all that you can to ensure your little ones’ safety. As fun and as peaceful as the water can be, it’s also a very dangerous and potentially deadly environment for your child if you don’t take certain precautions.
Water safety is important from birth up until childhood, so let’s brush up on some important things to know.
First things first, here’s my spiel on CPR:
The person supervising your child near any type of water should be familiar with infant CPR and/or child CPR (preferably). Keep in mind that if a child is found in the water or is unresponsive after being in the water, begin CPR (chest compressions) immediately. Don’t delay by looking for someone to call 911, time is precious and your baby’s brain could already be deprived of oxygen, so you want to start the compression sequence immediately. Refer to the above links for details of CPR for your child or infant.
General Water Safety Tips:
- Under 6 months of age
- The AAP recommends to avoid circumstances where your baby will be exposed to the sun and to dress them in LIGHT layers that cover their arms and legs. Also, make sure to put a sunhat with a 3″ brim to shield their face from the sun.
- Babies under 6 months old have very sensitive (and very absorbent) skin, so it is best to avoid lathering them up with chemical sunscreens. Almost all sunscreens are advised to be used only over 6 months, mostly because it is a widely known recommendation to avoid much sun exposure altogether. The AAP does; however, recommend a minimum SPF 15 for babies under 6 months on small areas that are uncovered (face, backs of hands, tops of feet, neck).
- Stay in the shade!
- Look for physical sunblocks instead of chemical sunscreens.
- Sunblocks should be used even on cloudy and overcast days, due to harmful UV rays that can still get through the clouds.
- Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, unless the kids have been in water – reapply after they come out of the water!
- Physical sunblocks create a thicker waterproof barrier on the skin that deflects the sun’s harmful rays, rather than chemicals penetrating skin and filtering out the sun’s rays (which is what chemical sunscreens do) by absorbing them instead.
- Chemical sunscreens are thin and often colorless.
- Physical sunblocks usually contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide to physically block the ultraviolet (UV) rays. Because they are physical barriers to the UV rays, they are visible, appearing white/creamy in color.
- Sun-protective clothing (often labeled with a UPF – Ultraviolet Protection Factor) is very popular and a great idea for babies, toddlers, and young children who should avoid excess sun exposure. According to the American Melanoma Foundation, these types of clothing have an effective sun protection factor (SPF) of greater than 30. UV Skinz – certified UPF 50+ is the brand of swimsuit/sunhat we were gifted in 2014 (and what Jia is wearing in the photo above) and can be found here.
- Lakes, oceans, sandy beaches, and even snow are very reflective of UV rays and children can sunburn more easily in such areas. Make sure to provide extra sun protection!
- Hydrate your children! Make sure they have plenty and plenty more water so that they are never thirsty.
- Adults supervising children in and around water should not consume alcohol (or any other neurological depressants), for this can definitely affect their paying attention to quick little children and puts children at risk of drowning.
Swim Lessons/Water Survival:
I laugh to myself when I think of the term “water survival,” thinking back to the episode of The League, where little Chalupa Batman is enrolled in swim lessons and Rafi refers to it as “water survival.” But, in essence, that is what swimming lessons are for little kids – teaching them how to survive in the water.
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), drowning is the #1 cause of accidental death in infants and young children aged 1-4.
In Southern California (and other coastal communities), water survival training (Infant Swimming Rescue – ISR) is very popular for infants so that infants as young as 6 months can learn how to respond and survive when in the water. It’s a very popular drowning prevention initiative that started in the 1960s and features a multi-layered approach to water safety.
Watch this really cool and inspiring video from ISR:
So according to the AAP, there isn’t any documented research showing that lessons will prevent drowning, for children under the age of one. Therefore, they do not recommend formal swimming instruction for this age group. They do; however, recommend that parents make the decision about formal swimming instruction based off of frequency and exposure to water, emotional development, and physical abilities.
However, AAP states that new research does show that children 1-4 years old “may be less likely to drown if they have had formal swimming instruction.” (HealthyChildren.org)
- Be “touch safety” adamant! Make sure that you are within arms’ reach of your child, where you can reach out and touch them.
- DO NOT leave a child unsupervised when they have access to the pool. This means even turning your back to have a conversation, or reaching into your diaper/swim bag for sunscreen or a diaper without “touch supervising” them.
Little kiddies are quick creatures and an excited kid can break loose of your careful watch without a moments’ notice.
- If you have a pool at home (or if you are visiting a home with a pool), make sure that the gates are latched and closed! If there is no gate around the pool, do not let children play around in the yard near the pool (even above-ground pools).
- The AAP warns against using inflatable floatation toys/aids for children, due to the risk of puncturing and providing a false sense of security. Life vests and other coast-guard approved floatation devices are excellent floatation devices. We have a Puddle Jumper Deluxe Life Jacket for Jia (pictured) and it’s a Coast-Guard Approved Type V (Special Use/Hybrid) personal floatation device (PFD). The booklet that came with ours says that it is also approved for Type III (floatation aid) performance. For classifications on life jackets, here’s a nice table.
- Always outfit your kid with a life-jacket, no matter what age, no matter their swimming skill level AND on a boat, on the dock, or even near the water.
- Life jackets should be snug and appropriately fitted, NOT smaller or larger than what is recommended for their weight. Again, click here for a table describing the different types of personal floatation devices.
- Adults should model safe behaviors to set a good example and wear life jackets, too.
Open Water (Oceans, lakes, etc)
- Make sure your child has a capable swimming buddy! Not another toddler, but a qualified babysitter or adult.
- CPR (again) The person supervising your child near open water should be familiar with infant CPR and/or child CPR (preferably). Keep in mind that if a child is found in the water or is unresponsive after being in the water, begin CPR (chest compressions) immediately. Don’t delay by looking for someone to call 911, time is precious and your baby’s brain could already be deprived of oxygen, so you want to start the compression sequence immediately. Refer to the above links for details of CPR for your child or infant.
- Make sure they are familiar with:
- rules on diving in deeper water with supervision, unless allowed by the parent.
- stay away from fast-moving water or canals.
- the dangers of rip currents – teach them that if they are being carried out to deeper waters, to swim parallel to the beach until the water is calm again.
- Only swim in open water when lifeguards are on duty.
Lastly, What to do in a Drowning Emergency:
- Remove child from unsafe (water) environment.
- Lie child down on a flat surface.
- Perform CPR immediately (without calling 9-1-1 unless someone is around and can call for you). Call 9-1-1 after you’ve performed 3 straight minutes of chest compressions and 2 rescue breaths. Infant CPR/Child CPR
- Once resuscitated (yay!), take the child to the ER (since you called 9-1-1 the ambulance will have arrived and paramedics taken over emergency care).
Have a safe summer!
AAP’s Summer Safety Tips: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/news/Pages/Summer-Safety-Tips-Sun-and-Water-Safety.aspx
American Melanoma Foundation – Facts About Sunscreen: http://www.melanomafoundation.org/prevention/facts.htm
The CDC – Water-Related Injuries Facts: http://www.cdc.gov/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Water-Safety/waterinjuries-factsheet.html
ISR Self-Rescue Survival Swimming: https://www.infantswim.com/lessons/isr-lessons.html
AAP on Water Safety and Young Children: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-play/Pages/Water-Safety-And-Young-Children.aspx
AAP Drowning – What to Do: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/injuries-emergencies/Pages/Drowning.aspx