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New Advice On Drowning Prevention

By Christina Elston

Big portable pools need fencing, and toddlers may benefit from swimming lessons – two new issues being addressed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Drowning rates have dropped almost 50 percent since 1985, but drowning remains the second leading cause of death for children, and still results in 1,100 child deaths each year.
In a new statement on swimming safety, which will appear in the July issue of Pediatrics, the AAP notes that large, inflatable above-ground pools are often exempt from building codes that require fencing. Yet these pools, which can hold thousands of gallons of water and stay filled for weeks at a time, were responsible for the deaths of 47 children between 2004 and 2006, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Jeffrey Weiss, M.D., lead author of the new AAP statement, calls these pools a “constant danger.”

The AAP statement also signals an about-face on swim lessons for toddlers. The pediatricians organization had previously advised against lessons for ages 1 to 3, believing that the classes didn’t drown-proof kids and gave parents a false sense of security. But small studies have now shown that kids ages 1 to 4 might be less likely to drown if they’ve had formal swim instruction. While not recommending mandatory lessons for this age group, the AAP is now suggesting that parents at least consider them. AAP recommendations against formal swim instruction for kids under age 1, however, remain unchanged.

More Water Safety Advice

Pool safetyHere’s a roundup of the AAP’s tips on swimming and water safety:

• Never leave small children alone, or in the care of another young child, near any body of water – whether as small as a bathtub or as big as the ocean.

• An adult should be within arm’s length of infants, toddlers or weak swimmers, and be actively supervising (with constant visual contact) older children and better swimmers.

• Pools should be surrounded by a four-sided fence at least four feet high with a self-latching, self-closing gate. The fence should be hard to climb (not chain link).

• People who own pools and/or care for kids should learn CPR.

• Children shouldn’t wear air-filled swim aids (like inflatable arm bands) in place of life jackets.

• All children should wear life jackets when riding in a boat.

• Know the depth of water and any underwater hazards before letting children jump in. The first time kids enter an unknown body of water, they should jump feet-first, not dive.

• Near the ocean, lakes or rivers, choose swim sites with lifeguards.



Here’s a roundup of the AAP’s other water-safety advice:

• Never leave small children alone, or in the care of another young child, near any body of water – whether as small as a bathtub or as big as the ocean.

• An adult should be within arm’s length of infants, toddlers or weak swimmers, and be actively supervising (with constant visual contact) older children and better swimmers.

• Pools should be surrounded by a four-sided fence at least four feet high with a self-latching, self-closing gate. The fence should be hard to climb (not chain link).

• People who own pools and/or care for kids should learn CPR.

• Children shouldn’t wear air-filled swim aids (like inflatable arm bands) in place of life jackets.

• All children should wear life jackets when riding in a boat.

• Know the depth of water and any underwater hazards before letting children jump in. The first time kids enter an unknown body of water, they should jump feet-first, not dive.

• Near the ocean, lakes or rivers, choose swim sites with lifeguards.

Christina Elston is a health writer for Dominion Parenting Media and writes the Health-E blog. 

MORE: Protect Your Family from Common Summer Safety Hazards

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