Play it safe around pools for a refreshing summer

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Alexander Zlatkin
  • 52nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron
With the unexpectedly hotter summer weather than in recent years, swimming and water-based activities are refreshing treats for children.

Although swimming is an exciting relief from summer heat , the danger of drowning is real and even the most well planned pool party can turn tragic if basic water safety is neglected.

According to the American Red Cross, drowning is the second most common cause of death from injuries among children younger than 14. Drowning can happen rapidly -- sometimes in less than two minutes after a child's mouth goes under water. That leaves very little time for someone to help. That's why it's imperative for you and your children to be familiar with safety around water.

Public outside swimming pools are the most common summer water venues for children. As a rule of thumb, always be present when your children are in the pool -- never assume your child knows how to handle themselves in water and allow him or her to go into the pool unattended. Lifeguards are trained to provide a watchful eye and handle a variety of water emergencies. Additionally, a slip or a fall can be dangerous. Tell your children to never run in the pool area and teach them to walk slowly at all times. In inclement weather, particularly high winds or lightning, have everyone exit the pool immediately and take shelter.

Body temperature drops more quickly in water than on land, so cold water can shock a child's body, making their blood pressure and heart rate go up. Cold water can also slow your child's muscles, making it difficult for them to swim. Make sure to test the pool's water temperature before allowing your child to jump in. Recommended temperatures vary depending on the swimmer's water activity, age and whether or not they are pregnant. A temperature below 70 degrees Fahrenheit is too cold for most swimmers. In general, 82-86 degrees is comfortable for school age children participating in recreational swimming. Younger children, such as infants and toddlers, are more comfortable when the water is on the warmer side of this temperature range.

Invest in proper-fitting, U.S. Coast Guard-approved flotation devices or life vests. Make sure to use them whenever children are 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 sturdy head support -- the collar should keep the child's head up and face out of the water. Inflatable vests and arm devices such as water wings are not considered effective protection against drowning.

It's important to teach your kids proper pool behavior and to make sure that you as a parent or guardian take the right precautions as well. That way everyone can enjoy a remarkable summer with some well deserved water fun.