01
September
2017
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07:17 PM
America/Chicago

Lifeguard Your Child … All the Way to the House or Car

It’s important to keep a child’s life vest on at all times

All summer long we’ve asked parents to “Lifeguard Your Child.”

The campaign’s focus has been on parents never taking their eyes off of their children while they are swimming … and that includes all the way to the car or house.

“We’ve seen many cases where children removed their life vests and jumped back in the water,” said Magdalena Santillan, Trauma Injury Prevention specialist at Cook Children’s, “Often, parents are getting ready to leave the pool and don’t realize their kids have jumped back in.”

From June 1 to Aug. 21, 2017, 54 kids were seen for drowning at Cook Children’s. Three children died during the summer.

Often times the drowning occurred after everyone had gotten out of the pool and the life jacket was taken off him or her. Then the child wanders back into the pool without a life jacket or adult supervision.

Sharon Evans, Trauma Injury Prevention Coordinator at Cook Children’s, says it’s easy to let your guard down once you say the day is over and it’s time to leave the pool. But that’s when children are most at risk for going back into the water without anything to prevent them from drowning.

“It’s important for kids to wear a Coast Guard approved life vest and for parents to be in arms reach of their child,” Evans said. “The mistake that people make is taking that life vest off once they are out of the water. I tell parents to keep the life vest on until they are actually putting their child in the car or they are in their home with the door shut and locked.”

Evans said if children go to the bathroom, a parent should go with them and hold the life vest. Once they have washed their hands, place the life vest back on before they leave the bathroom and head back to the water.

Corwin Warmink, M.D., medical director of Emergency Services at Cook Children’s, calls drowning a “preventable tragedy.” In nearly nine out of 10 child drowning–related deaths, the parent or caregiver said the child had been with them in the house or pool within five minutes of the accident.

“Children should never be in water without adults watching them,” said Corwin Warmink, M.D., medical director of Emergency Services at Cook Children’s. “If you have a toddler, that child shouldn't be in water without what we call touch supervision. You need to be in hand's length and it's not just pools. That includes bathtubs or any other container with water. I've seen kids drown in buckets. A child can drown in any water, even a few inches deep. Supervision isn't, Hey there’s six of us cooking hamburgers and text messaging. It means there’s someone who has the designated job to watch the children in the water.”

Drowning prevention around the pool begins with adult supervision, but there are other steps parents can take at home to help protect their children from drowning.

Layers of Protection

Use these safety techniques and layers of protection whenever children are around the pool:

  • Require adult Water Watchers to stay close and actively watch children in water. Water Watchers must stay off cell phones and not talk to other guests during their 15 minutes shift.
  • If you are alone with your child, stay with your child. Get in the water with your child and be in arm's reach.
  • Swim with U.S. Coast Guard-approved life vests. Don't use floaties filled with air.
  • Learn to swim at any age.
  • Learn CPR.
  • Install a fence on all sides of a backyard pool or spa. Secure the fence with a self-latching gate.
  • Use alarms that can be put on children's wrists.
  • Update pool/spa drain covers.
  • Follow pool rules and signs.
  • In large pools, it’s ideal to split up in groups and take sections of the pool.

“If you are somewhere where children are in the pool, insist that an adult be on watch,” said Dana Walraven, community health outreach manager for Cook Children’s, said. “It should be done by a sober adult and that should be his or her only focus during their time watching the kids.”

Contacts
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Justin Smith, M.D.
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