Story & Photo by Michelle Rojano
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 2005-2014 there were 3,536 unintentional fatal drownings. One-in-5 of those were children under the age of 14.
Thankfully, there are steps people can take to prevent such tragedies.
Although having a pool or a hot tub may seem like a hazard, these might actually be an asset that can help your kids learn how to swim and know basic water safety at an early age.
Introducing children to a pool or even a spa at a young age can help get them to become comfortable with water.
“It's so important to teach children swimming skills so that they become comfortable with water early in life,” said Emily Siddiqui, Rose State alumna and trained lifeguard. “Every second counts in a potential drowning situation.”
A large body of water can be intimidating at first, but teaching children how relaxing and fun a pool can be can make a difference.
The majority of drownings occur under adult supervision, according to the CDC. It is important parents or guardians are constantly supervising their children when they are in a pool.
Parents and guardians should remain attentive when children are in a pool.
“Contrary to popular belief, someone who is drowning will rarely be thrashing in the water or be able to call for help,” Siddiqui said.
Instead of thrashing and calling for help, common signs for people in danger are to have their mouth near surface level, head tilted back with mouth open, gasping or hyperventilating, unfocused eyes and may even be attempting to swim in a general direction but not succeeding.
“Parents or guardians often become distracted and fail to supervise their children around water,” Siddiqui said. “This is a very unsafe habit, as it only takes seconds for drowning to claim a victim.”
Children who know basic swimming skills may be able to save themselves or remain afloat long enough for help to arrive.
It is important to get rid of the fear of water so children are able to react in a situation where they have to swim to safety. Simple techniques can help children feel confident in water.
“Skills like learning to float, control breathing and push off the ground are key, because that means they can save energy and hopefully get to safety on their own,” Siddiqui added.
It is recommended that children start swimming lessons at the age of 4 but there are techniques like Infant Swimming Resource Self Rescue (ISR) for infants ages 6-12 months. This technique involves a child learning to turn into a face-up position in water and float until help comes. For children between ages 1-6 there are other safety techniques like a full ISR, which involves the child swimming to safety and taking breaks to float and catch their breath between swims.
Swimming lessons for children over the age of 6 are similar to traditional lessons and are available for beginners at local YMCA locations.
With learning to swim, it is also important for people to take safety precautions regardless of age. According to the CDC, bystanders who performed CPR on victims have saved many lives. CPR certification can take as little as two hours with an online course, which will certify you for two years. In addition, it is also important that people wear a safety vest when on a boat, regardless of age or swim experience.
People who have pools in their homes should have a four-sided fence. In addition, the CDC also recommends constant supervision for children and they also advise adults to remove pool toys from the water and the deck area so children are not tempted to jump back in when an adult is not
YMCA locations offer a variety of options for swimming lessons for parents and infants, children of all ages and classes for special needs children. For more information, visit ymcaokc.org or for more information on how to get a CPR certification, visit redcross.org.
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