Events, features and things to do for families in New Hampshire
Take precautions to prevent your child from drowning
By Jamie Lober
Water safety and drowning prevention is a topic that should be covered at all well child visits. Even so, you cannot depend on the pediatrician to cover everything and you should be revisiting the topic periodically at home.
“Kids need to have those discussions on a regular basis with their parents,” Dr. Angie Klingler of Family Tree Healthcare in Warner said. Sometimes rehearsal is a good way to master the basics.
Practice by giving scenarios. “You can use little reminders like asking if he was at Johnny’s house and Johnny had a pool, if he was allowed to go in it, would he,”? said Klingler. Remember that kids can even drown in knee-deep water. “It does not matter the depth of the pool or pond; there always needs to be supervision,” Klingler said. Although it is a great idea to enlist your child in swim lessons, don’t let it give you a false sense of security.
Some pediatricians make a game out of it for 3- and 4-year-olds. They ask the kids safety questions to see how they will respond.
“I ask what the number one rule is about being at a pond, lake or pool and most kids can answer it and say there needs to be a grownup there,” Klingler said. Kids often love to tell their pediatrician about what they can do in the pool. “I love to trick them with scenarios involving peer pressure to see how they may respond to a child who is trying to get them to do something that they have been told is not safe but usually the kids pass with flying colors,” Klingler said.
If the child cannot answer common sense questions, there is certainly some teaching you need to do. “Your child should know to never go in the water by himself even if there is another older child with him.”
Do not be fooled into thinking that water safety only applies to outdoor bodies of water. An equally troublesome spot is your bathtub.
“No toddlers, infants or small children should ever be left alone in a bathtub even if it is for you to get the phone and come back into the room,” Klingler said.
There are precautions you can take. “If you have a toddler who is learning to walk, keep the toilet seat down, do not keep water in a kiddie pool and make sure your large pool has a secure fence around it,” said Dr. Charles Sawyer, medical director at Valley Regional Hospital’s emergency medicine. Kids are curious so you should be sure gates to the pool are locked when it is not in use. Some parents use alarms so they are alerted if their child may get into trouble.
Do your part to prevent injuries by instructing your child how to safely jump off the side of the pool.
“He should go to the edge and jump into the water so he avoids slipping and striking his head on the side of the pool,” Klingler said. You should also be reiterating to walk and never run around the pool. Parents often feel relaxed around the water and let their guard down but it really matters that your family understands and follows the rules.
Having safety equipment on hand can help. “Utilize proper fitting life preservers,” Sawyer said.
When a child is submerged with no way to take in air, the water closes off their throat so they either suffocate from lack of air or the water fills their lungs,” said Sawyer. It only takes mere inches of water. Since kids will sink if they cannot swim, you should always be cognizant of the depth of the water.
“There can be head and neck injuries causing spinal cord trauma that can result in either death or paralysis if somebody dives into water that it too shallow and strikes the top of their head at the bottom of the pool,” Klingler said. If you have an adventurous child, be extra cautious if he is jumping from rocks into a swimming hole because there are always risks associated. Never have your child dive from the shallow end.
Know what to do in the case of drowning. “Yell for someone to call 911, remove the child from the water and sweep out their mouth with your finger. If they are not breathing, start CPR and when the child begins responding by gasping for air or choking, roll them to their side so the water can be expelled,” said Sawyer.
Know that your child is not as water-proficient as he may seem. “You need to have an understanding that babies do not swim even though the Y says they can learn,” Dr. Charles Capetta, pediatrician at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, said. They are taught to go dunking for apples and bob in the bath or pool but may not always keep their mouth closed which can lead to serious problems.
Age 5 or 6 is the ideal time to start swim lessons but do not rush things. “Do not throw your child in a pool to see if he floats and say that is how you will do it; you have to be a 24/7 hawk around him and you should be an available, responsible adult,” Capetta said.
Jamie Lober, author of Pink Power, is a nationally known speaker dedicated to providing information on women’s health topics.
Last updated by Morgen Thiboult Apr 27, 2011.