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June 6, 2020

Water Safety: Lifesaving Tips for Your Family

By Petra Vybiralova, supervisor for the Safe Kids Florida Suncoast led by Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital

A child can drown anywhere and in the blink of an eye, but there are steps we can take to prevent these tragedies. Across the country, children between the ages of 1 and 4 are at the highest risk for unintentional drowning. Drowning is the leading cause of death for children in this age group. Contrary to what you may see on TV, drowning victims typically don’t have a chance to cry or scream. Instead, drownings are silent and often undetected because children, especially, move fast and may go underwater in seconds.

Florida leads the nation in the number of child drownings, and many of them happen at home. Safe Kids Florida Suncoast recommends several ways to apply layers of protection throughout your home to prevent these injuries.

  • Identify Bodies of Water and Have a Clear View: Adults should have a clear view of the pool from inside the home. Don’t have a pool? Inflatable pools, a neighbor’s pool, lakes, canals or creeks may pose additional dangers. Identify these other risks and remember to keep children inside of your home and know if they are exiting — even unintentionally.
  • Create barriers and use pool safety devices: You should have several barriers to prevent children from exiting the home, such as locks that are high up on doors, childproofing on doors and alarms that are turned on. Families can get relatively low-cost alarms that attach to the door at online retailers. All residential pools should be surrounded by a fence with self-closing, self-latching gates. Keep outdoor furniture away from the fence, so children can’t easily climb over the fence. Remove all toys and floating objects from the pool, so it is less tempting to a child. Don’t forget about pet doors either that children could easily fit through – these should also be secured.
  • Never leave a child alone near water: Whether they are in a bath tub or near another body of water — no matter how small — do not leave children unattended, not even for a minute. Also, keep your toilet seat closed and locked.
  • Designate a water watcher: A water watcher is a responsible adult who agrees to watch the children in the water without distractions, like a phone, and will wear a water watcher card. While the water watcher should not be on their phone, a phone should be nearby in case they need to call in an emergency. To request a water watcher card, email achsafekids@jhmi.edu.
  • Know the basics of swim safety: While swimming lessons may not be widely available in your area at this time, it is important to teach children the basics of swim safety. This includes making sure children only swim when an adult is around, learning how to tread water and float on their back. Also, water wings and pool noodles shouldn’t take the place of a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device. Additionally, safety experts encourage you to learn the basics of hands-only CPR so you can be prepared in case of an emergency

Learn More at HopkinsAllChildrens.org/Stories

Originally published in Tampa Bay Parenting’s June Issue.

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