The weather is finally getting warm, and with that, starts one of my favorite summer activities: trips to the pool and lake. Being around water is one of the most relaxing things I can think of. But water can also be very dangerous: nearly 1000 children die each year by drowning. Many of these are in home swimming pools. In addition, Lake Michigan had more people drowning this past year than any other Great Lake.
Fortunately there are precautions we can take to stay safe in our trips to the water.
Follow the safety signs: stay away from areas that are marked no swimming/no diving or beach closed. Swim only in areas that have lifeguards. This may seem like common sense, but many times people think these do not apply to them!
Parents should know the depth of the water and any underwater hazards before they or the children jump in. The first time you enter the water, jump feet first and don’t dive.
Second, everyone 4 years and older should take swim lessons, since it has been shown that lessons for kids older than 4 prevents drowning. The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) states that younger children (1-4 yrs.) may benefit from lessons, but there is not enough research to recommend this. The AAP does not recommend formal lessons for children younger than 1 year of age.
When younger children and weak swimmers are in the water, they should be within arm’s length of an adult. For older children and better swimmers, adult still needs to be aware of where the children are and not be distracted by other activities.
If you do have a pool at your home, a locked fence at least 4 ft. high is recommended on all sides of the pool. Above ground pools are often exempt from village regulations for fences. However often these pools have soft sides and children can climb in, fall into them head first and drown.
Anyone in a boat of any type should have a life jacket. This does not include the blow up type, since they can deflate and are not designed to keep swimmers safe.
Following the above suggestions can help us all enjoy the beautiful lake we are fortunate to live by, and the wonderful park districts in our area. Safe swimming!
Pat Lawrence, CPNP