Lifeguard Your Child: How to Protect Your Child and Others from Drowning
Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death among children between 1 and 4 years old.
By Heather Duge
Cook Children’s has treated nine drownings so far this year, one of which was fatal. As the weather warms up, parents and caregivers should take time to review how to keep their young children safe around water.
With the recent news of a Tampa Bay Buccaneers player’s 2-year-old daughter drowning in their swimming pool, we are reminded of how quickly water can turn into a tragic accident. It only takes a minute for a child to drown, and most of the time it is silent.
According to Safe Kids Worldwide, drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death among children between 1 and 4 years old. Even if a child survives a drowning, it's possible to have lasting neurological effects. Cook Children’s leads a campaign called Lifeguard Your Child for parents and caregivers to learn how to protect children in all kinds of water.
Drownings can occur even with many adults present. One key tip is to designate a “water watcher” – a responsible adult who agrees to watch the children in the water without distractions.
Sharon Evans, trauma injury prevention coordinator at Cook Children’s, said it is vital for parents and homeowners to realize they must be on guard at all times if they have a pool.
“All of the barriers along with swimming lessons can prevent drownings,” Sharon said. “Not only having these barriers in place but ensuring the alarms work and are on and the gates remain closed is important as well.”
Drownings can happen silently and quickly. A submerged person might not attract attention or appear to be in danger. Younger children most often drown in swimming pools by falling in while unsupervised. Parents can put barriers in place to help prevent a child from accessing the water or make it more difficult to access when an adult is not present.
Top Pool Barriers
The more barriers in place, the safer the child will be.
- Four-sided isolation fences with self-latching gates
- Alarms (pool, door, gate)
- Automatic pool covers
- Doorknob covers and high locks on doors leading to the outdoors
- Reroute dog/pet doors that have direct access to the pool area
Lifeguard Your Child
Cook Children’s initiated a drowning prevention campaign called Lifeguard Your Child in 2015 in response to a high number of drowning injuries treated in the Emergency Department and medical center that year. 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:
• 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.
For more information about drowning prevention, go to www.lifeguardyourchild.org.