Lifeguard Your Child: Don’t Take a Vacation From Water Safety
Swimming pools, lakes and beaches all pose risks but with the right preparation, you can avoid tragic outcomes this Memorial Day weekend.
By Heather Duge
As families start their summer traveling, water safety vigilance is key at all ages and no matter where your family might be. Swimming pools, lakes and beaches all pose risks but with the right preparation, you can avoid tragic outcomes.
“Many families stay on rental properties with pools and they may not have a pool at home,” said Sharon Evans, trauma injury prevention coordinator. “Knowing ahead of time what questions to ask and the kind of barriers to put in place lowers the risk of a drowning event.”
Cook Children’s has already treated 10 drownings so far this year, one of which was fatal. Parents need to remember that 70% of toddler drownings happen during unplanned swim time. This is when parents didn’t expect their child to be in or around the water.
Ensuring the pool is completely secure after swimming for the day is extremely important. Remove all toys and floats from the pool area so children are not tempted to get close to the water. For above-ground pools, make sure the ladder is removed and not accessible when it’s not swimming time.
Staying Afloat with the Right Life Jacket
Evans says it is not always a matter of strong swimming. Especially with murky water, your child could hit his head on an object underneath and quickly become disoriented. That is why life jackets are a must at lakes and beaches. Texas state law requires all children under 13 years old to wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket on boats under 26 feet in length. With so many life jacket options, be sure you choose one that fits properly and is Coast Guard-approved.
A life jacket that is too big will cause the flotation device to push up around your child’s face but too small means it will not be able to keep your child’s body afloat. If there is excess room above the openings and the life jacket rides up over your child’s chin or face, it does NOT fit properly.
A snug fit in these areas signals a properly fitting life jacket. Do not buy a life jacket for your child to grow into – it must fit your child just right. Check the weight limits on the label – and try it on before getting in the water.
A Safe Day at the Beach
At beaches, pay close attention to the warning flags as they can change throughout the day. A red flag is a high hazard meaning high surf and/or strong currents. A yellow flag is a medium hazard meaning moderate surf and/or currents. A green flag is a low hazard meaning calm conditions, exercise caution. A purple flag means dangerous marine life spotted.
“The safest way to play at the beach is with a life jacket,” Sharon said. “Strong waves can come out of nowhere and pull a child down to the bottom causing you to quickly lose sight of them.”
Preparations to make before landing at your vacation spot:
- Check to see if the pool has barriers such as fencing.
- Ask if there are locks high up on doors leading to the outdoors and door alarms.
- Ask if there are dog/pet doors that have direct access to the pool area. Young children can fit through these doors without triggering the door alarm.
- Bring bright swimsuits for your children – choose swimsuit colors that do not blend into the body of water in which your child will be swimming. Light colors, like white or light blue, tend to blend into the swimming pool, making the child harder to see. Neon colors are more noticeable and contrast against the water at pools, lakes and beaches.
- When there are children around water, always designate a Water Watcher, an adult who is in charge of watching all children without any distractions.
- Pack water watcher tags for adults to wear at the pool.
- Refresh CPR and first aid skills.
- Bring portable door alarms and body alarms for additional layers of protection.
- Bring doorknob covers.
- What Color Is Your Child's Swimsuit? Experts Say Choose Safety Over Fashion (checkupnewsroom.com)
- Tips for Best Fit, Safe Practices for Wearing Life Jackets (checkupnewsroom.com)
- Pediatrician Shares Top Beach Vacation Tips (checkupnewsroom.com)
- Water Watcher Tag: 1 Item Can Help Prevent Drownings (checkupnewsroom.com)
Lifeguard Your Child began in 2016 and continues its regional collaboration, led by Cook Children’s, to prevent drownings in North Texas. The campaign aligns consistent messages and educational goals across our region. Together with community partners across 11 counties, we work year-round to provide education, Water Watcher tags, swim lessons, life jackets and other prevention tools to families.
The Lifeguard Your Child campaign is spread through the Safe Kids North Texas Coalition, which is based in Fort Worth and led by Cook Children’s.
The campaign’s strategies include Cook Children’s Loaner Life Jacket Stations at many lake entry points across the region. Families can go to the stations to find U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets in a variety of sizes with easy tips for a proper fit.
Safety tips for home swimming pools:
- Assign a water watcher, aka an adult who will commit to 100% supervision of children in and around water.
- Restrict access by installing door locks high out of children’s reach. Door and window alarms can signal if someone leaves the house.
- Install four-sided fencing around pools with a self-latching gate that only opens out. The fence should be at least 4 feet (preferably 5 feet) high.
- Remove all toys and floats from the pool area so children are not tempted to get close to the water.
- For above-ground pools, make sure the ladder is removed and not accessible when it’s not swimming time.
- Consider a pool surface alarm to alert if anyone/anything falls into the water.
Safety tips for the bathtub:
- An adult must stay at the side of the tub in reach of the child.
- Pay attention. This is not the time for multitasking.
- Ignore distractions like the doorbell or phone calls.
- Drain the tub after each use.