Summer’s here, and fun in the sun usually includes some water time! When it comes to water activities, it’s important to keep some safety tips in mind.
When my little boy was about a year-and-a-half old, he was playing in his little pool in our backyard. A friend was visiting, and he started, as many kids do, coughing from taking some water in. My friend acted in a way that I felt was overreacting; making sure he was fine, counting his coughs after and so on. I remember thinking, “Um, he coughed. He got the water out. He’s fine.”
Sure enough, when we took swim lessons that summer, his swim instructor warned me about dry drowning, and a host of other things I had no idea of, even though I’d been around water my whole life. I was so surprised, and so humbled, as I didn’t know so much that could literally save his life.
Ever since, and especially because we’ve always lived near water, I have been careful to follow expert recommendations when it comes to water safety, as danger can literally change your life in a second. The most important thing that all child experts recommend is to never leave your child alone in water. Experts recommend that children under five, or older, less experienced swimmers should have an adult who is CPR-trained within ‘touch’ range so that they can act should the unthinkable happen.
When it comes to pool time, be sure that children avoid the drains as the suctions are strong and can trap bathing suits, making children unable to get back to the top. Also, much as you think they may make being in the pool safer for your little, avoid the ‘floaties’ that go on arms (and typically can be blown up). If your child is not wearing an approved life vest in the pool, they should either know how to swim or not be in the water without you holding them. The false sense of security ‘floaties’ give has sadly led to several drownings of children.
When your children are swimming in open water like oceans or lakes, it’s imperative that you discuss with them the dangers of tides and rip currents, and make sure they are aware of what to do in the event they become caught in a rip current that takes them away. Even though it seems counter-intuitive, if you are caught in a rip current, you should be sure your child knows to swim parallel to the shore until they are out of the rip current, and able to safely return to shore.
As well, it is always advised to swim under the supervision of a lifeguard, or at the very least a designated, CPR-trained adult who is the ‘water watcher’ and can keep an eye out at all times with no distractions like cell phones or tablets.
Summer is a time of boating and water sports, so it’s important to always wear approved safety vests whenever on water, and be sure to use appropriate sunscreen as the water reflection amplifies rays exponentially. Be sure when boating, there are seats for everyone, and children are given a boat brief before heading out for the fun.
National Safety Council Statistics claim drowning is a leading cause of death for young children, with 12% of drownings in 2017 were of children aged four and under. Always be sure that anything like bathtubs, pools, toilets and even buckets filled with water are guarded, as believe it or not, they do pose risk.
But scarily, ‘dry’ or ‘secondary’ drowning pose great risks too, mostly because most parents think that once they are no longer in the water, the risk of drowning is gone. Not so, and that’s why most swim experts recommend paying attention to the ‘Three Cough Rule.” Dry drowning occurs when your child breathes in water and that causes their vocal cords to spasm and close up, most likely well after he’s left the water. His airways shut off, and he can’t breathe.
Secondary drowning is similar, but in secondary drowning situations, children do breathe water in and it gets into their lungs. The water builds up there, and causes a condition known as pulmonary edema. Symptoms are the same; your child has a hard time breathing, and eventually could suffocate. The “Three Cough Rule” is one that says if your child coughs (even that little sputter of water like he’s ‘clearing it out,’ three or more times during water play in an hour, they have to leave the activity for at least a half an hour (or more) to allow the water taken in to resolve.
If you invoke the rule, don’t let your children nap if they’ve been coughing in the pool or ocean, as you’d not know if they were having breathing problems when they sleep.
Most importantly, if after the water play is done and your child continues to act sleepy or lethargic, or is still coughing, see the doctor to be sure there’s not a bigger issue in their lungs. Turns out my friend was right for me to be concerned with even that little ‘sputter’ my son gave when he was ‘coughing water out,’ and I’m thankful for it.