Lifeguard Your Child
May historically signals drowning season
Who is watching your children in the pool?
More importantly, who is not watching them drown?
Heading into the Memorial Day weekend, one child died at Cook Children's from a fatal drowning and 15 more kids have been treated for non-fatal drownings already this year. This is the most drowning patients we've seen at this point in the year since 2012.
Last year, Cook Children’s staff saw eight drowning deaths and another 61 children treated for near-drownings.
Most of the drownings occurred during the summer months of June and July with 39 total drowning and 5 deaths.
The numbers have to go down and this month Cook Children’s begins its new campaign: “Lifeguard Your Child.”
“We hope this campaign sends a clear message to parents and adults when they are at the pool or lake,” Sharon Evans, Trauma Injury Prevention coordinator at Cook Children’s. “Adult supervision is critical to the safety of a child in the water and is the difference between life and death for many kids.
"We’re asking parents and adults watching children in the water to go in with the mindset of a lifeguard.”
Ideally, Evans suggests adults get in the water and be in arms reach of their child. “Don’t let your child out of your sight and be there to grab children out of the water at any sign of trouble,” Evans said.
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.
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.
- Also, install alarms in pools and on doors that lead to pools.
- Update pool/spa drain covers.
- Follow pool rules and signs.
- A fence with a locking gate should surround the pool.
- Install door alarms to alert adults when a child is entering the pool area.
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.”
For more information about this topic, visit cookchildrens.org.