Kids are naturally drawn to water — especially when it’s hot out. Whether it’s a pool, lake, Delta slough or the ocean, water is sparkly and refreshing, a place to have fun. But water can also be dangerous if kids aren’t properly supervised. According to the CDC, drowning is the single leading cause of injury-related death for children 1 to 4 years old, and at least one in five drownings are children ages 14 and younger.
“Unsupervised swimming is especially concerning here in the Delta region where it is very hot in the summer and into the fall,” says Dr. Susan Adham, an Antioch-based pediatrician affiliated with Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation. “The temptation to jump in the pool or the river without a responsible adult watching might just be too much.”
Dr. William Francis, an emergency room doctor at Sutter Delta Medical Center in Antioch, says he has treated several children for water-related injuries since the pandemic started.
“We have to remember that when a pool is installed – either above ground or in the ground – children need to be supervised 100 percent around water,” says Dr. Francis.
Local pediatricians say they often teach parents about water safety measures for their kids at check-ups.
“Counseling is important during well-child visits and it’s important to remind parents it doesn’t take much for a child to drown,” says Dr. Adham. “If necessary, we remind parents that this continues to happen in our communities. Kids can get into trouble so quickly.”
To help kids stay safer in the water, pediatricians and water safety experts recommend that when young children are in or around water, an adult should be actively supervising at all times. If adults are in a group, they should appoint a “water watcher’’ who will pay close attention to the children and avoid distractions like talking on a cell phone or drinking alcohol.
Shockingly, according to the National Drowning Prevention Alliance, 88 percent of child drownings occur with at least one adult present.
Pam Stoker, a trauma injury prevention specialist at Sutter’s Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, encourages parents to follow a protocol for active supervision that includes:
Attention – focusing on your child and nothing else because anything that takes your attention away increases your child’s injury risk.
Continuity – constantly watching your child. For example, don’t leave your child by the pool to go inside and get a towel.
Closeness – stay close enough to actually touch your child. If you are out of arm’s reach of your child, your ability to prevent injury goes down significantly. While it is impossible to actively supervise your child 24 hours a day, it is important to do so during activities that are high risk to your child’s safety.
According to the NDPA, drowning is silent and can happen in as little as 30 seconds. So, it’s critical to keep a vigilant eye on children when they are around water. Typically, says Stoker, people who are drowning bob silently in the water until they slip under completely.
8 Tips to Keep Kids Safer in Water:
- Barriers: Pools should be fenced on all sides with a 4-foot fence that kids can’t climb. And the fence should have a gate with a lock that kids can’t reach.
- Empty inflatable or portable pools immediately after use. Store upside down and out of kids’ reach.
- Alarms: Consider installing a door alarm, a window alarm or both to alert you if a child wanders into the pool area unsupervised.
- Never rely on water wings or noodles as flotation devices. Inflatable toys aren’t substitutes for life jackets. They are fun toys, but aren’t a substitute for a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
- A brightly colored life jacket stands out and can help locate a submerged person.
Explains Dr. Francis, “When adults or children become submerged in murky water like we have in the Delta, rescue becomes difficult to impossible in a matter of seconds. It is for this reason that life jackets are critically important even for strong swimmers.”
- Worn properly, life jackets save lives. For more information on Coast Guard-approved life jackets, click here.
- Teach children to swim. They can start swimming lessons as young as 1 year old. The American Red Cross Learn-to-Swim program is available at aquatic facilities across the country.
- Learn CPR. Check for resources on first aid and CPR training at your local fire department or the American Red Cross or American Heart Association.