Co-authored by Kate Carr, President and CEO, Safe Kids Worldwide, and Elicia Azali, Nationwide
Pools, lakes and even tubs (for little ones) can provide plenty of fun and relief from the summer heat. But as families take to the water this holiday weekend and beyond, there is reason for extra caution: Almost 800 kids drown each year and two-thirds occur in the summer months (between May and August).
No one ever expects this would happen to their family. Yet tragedy does strike. Recently, twin toddlers in South Carolina drowned in 4-feet of water after climbing under a fence and into an above ground pool. On Father's Day, a 4-year-old girl and 17-month-old toddler both died in separate drowning incidents outside of Chicago.
As parents we can work together to help prevent future tragedies. Safe Kids and Nationwide's Make Safe Happen program teamed up to conduct research to understand the problem and found a number of misconceptions among parents regarding water safety. Now we're partnering to debunk the most common misconceptions and offer tips to keep kids and families safe.
Misconception 1: I will hear my child if he/she gets in trouble in the water and starts to drown. The truth is drowning is silent. In real life, there can be very little splashing, waving or screaming. TIP: Keep your eyes on your kids when they are in the water.
Misconception 2: Nothing bad will happen if I take my full attention off of my child for a couple of minutes. Drowning is quick. The reality is that once a child begins to struggle, parents may have less than a minute to react. TIP: Because drowning happens fast, keep young children within arms' reach of an adult at all times. Make sure older children swim with a partner.
Misconception 3: If there is a lifeguard present, I don't need to worry as much about actively supervising my child in and around water. A lifeguard's job is to enforce pool rules, scan, rescue and resuscitate, not keep an eye on any specific child. TIP: Be alert and responsible for your children when they are in or around water. If you are socializing, assign a Water Watcher so everyone is clear who is watching the kids at any given time.
Misconception 4: If my child has had swim lessons I don't have to worry about him/her drowning. Parents often overestimate their child's swimming ability. A review of children who drowned in a pool revealed that 47 percent of 10 to 17 year olds reportedly knew how to swim.
TIP: Swimming skills are developed and improved over time. Make sure your child learns to swim and develops these five water survival skills:
- Step or jump into the water over their heads
- Return to the surface and float or tread water for one minute
- Turn around in a full circle and find an exit from the water
- Swim 25 yards to the exit
- Exit from the water. If in a pool, be able to exit without using the ladder
If you are one of the parents that believed these misconceptions, you are not alone. Keep these tips in mind and share them with your family and friends. You can also consider learning CPR, a skill that can save a life. Together let's keep summer fun.