Stapleton Pediatrics Blog

Kids and Water Safety

by Rich Gustafson, MD

Swimming is a fabulous all-around activity. It is fun, excellent exercise, and an easy way to get kids away from the video games, especially during those hot summer days. My fondest summer memories as a young child are centered on our local swimming pool, but swimming and pools do carry significant risks. So as summer approaches, it’s a good idea to review important water safety guidelines. Many people do not realize that children can drown in only a few inches of water. Please keep in mind the following as you prepare for swim season.

Swimming Lessons
Swimming lessons - while very important – cannot always prevent drowning in young children. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is concerned that swim lessons may lead to parental complacency, i.e., not being fully aware that even advanced swimming skills do not “drown-proof” a child of any age. The AAP does not recommend swim lessons for children under age 1 because there are no studies showing that swimming lessons can improve water survival skills. Between the ages of 1 and 4, the AAP also does not recommend mandatory swim lessons, but rather advises parents to assess their child’s frequency in water, physical abilities, emotional development and other health conditions before enrolling him/her in swim lessons.
While I agree with the AAP that there is no known long-term swimming skill or survival benefit, if asked, I often encourage infant and toddler swim lessons. These lessons are potentially a very fun and different bonding activity for families, and lessons also help get children comfortable in the water.

Obviously, you should never, ever leave a child unsupervised in water even if they are confident swimmers and had swimming lessons. A responsible adult or lifeguard should always be present. With very young children, an adult should always be arm’s length away. Distractions can be fatal. Put phones, laptops and other devices away when you are supervising children in the water. Also make sure your child has constant supervision when around small bodies of water, e.g., inflatable pools, bathtubs and fountains.  

The deep and shallow ends of any pool you go to should be clearly marked. There should be absolutely no diving in shallow areas.

Inflatable Toys
Do not let children use inflatable toys, including those popular water wings, as life vests. They can deflate suddenly and children can slip off of them easily into deep water.

Sun Safety
When you spend time in the water, it’s important to consider sun exposure. Your sunscreen should be broad-spectrum (protection from both UVA and UVB rays) and water-resistant. Although a SPF of at least 30 is recommended, the most important factors in protecting skin is HOW MUCH and HOW OFTEN sunscreen is applied. For more information on sun and sunscreen safety, see Dr. Brandon’s blog post on the subject. As always, contact us with any questions or concerns. Have a safe and happy summer!

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Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.
Posted: 5/27/2015 7:11:40 AM by | with 0 comments
Filed under: Denver, Dr., fun, Gustafson, lessons, pediatrician, Rich, safety, summer, Swimming, water

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