Our final Child Safety Week blog is on water safety. When you say Water Safety most people think of the sea and the dangers of going to the beach and swimming in the ocean. The truth is that the bath tub is just as big of a risk.
Common Misconceptions About Drowning:
"My child is a good swimmer"
Even good swimmers can be caught unawares; they could slip in the bath or get taken by a strong current. No matter how good a swimmer they are, you should always keep an eye on them.
"I'll hear them"
Unfortunately, unlike in the movies, drowning is normally silent. Children's heads are disproportionately larger than the rest of their bodies and often they just sink or they are instinctively trying to preserve their energy so they won't call out for help. It only takes a couple of inches to cover the child's mouth and nose, especially if they slip in the bath and hit their head.
"I'll check every few minutes"
It only takes a few minutes. Drowning can happen in a minute with brain damage almost guaranteed in four minutes. It's not pleasant to think about but in the time it takes for you grab a towel from the cupboard your child could be slipping underwater and in the 'few minutes' it takes to answer the door they could be drowning.
Water Safety Rules:
Teaching your child some rules about being safe around water can save their life and give you some peace of mind but you still need to remember that the most important rule for water safety lies with the adults - never leave your child unsupervised around water.
Here are a few ideas of rules to keep your children safe:
Walk near water
The bathroom floor or the area round the pool can be very slippery so it is important to walk slowly even when excited; eg because you're on holiday. Otherwise they could fall and hit their heads which can cause a serious injury.
A child should always ask permission before getting in the water. This means that you have the chance to determine that it is safe and also means that you know where your child is and can keep an eye.
Go in feet first
Diving into water head first can cause serious head injuries if the water is not deep enough. It is important to ask lifeguards or look for signs that say it is okay to dive. Never dive into the shallow end of the pool or a body of water where you don't know the depth. Always go in feet first.
Wear a life jacket
If your child is a non-swimmer or a new swimmer it should go without saying that they should be wearing a life jacket or life vest of some sort. For bigger bodies of water a life jacket is better than arm floats or pool noodles as these are not appropriate for the situation and could come off or float away.
Swim with a friend
A child should never be in the water unaccompanied. If they are a non swimmer or a new swimmer it should be a competent adult who can help if needed. If your child is responsible and a good swimmer then a 'buddy system' can work. This is where they swim with a friend who is also responsible and a good swimmer who can get help if they get into trouble.
Stay in the designated area
Teach your child to look for signs stating where the safe zones are or what the water depth is. Additionally, if there are lane markers, teach your child that these are not toys or barriers to lean on but boundaries for a reason; eg 2 lanes, 1 for faster swimmers, 1 for those who swim more sedately.
Don't swim in moving water
Natural bodies of water where there is a current can be unpredictable and you need to teach your child that it is unsafe to swim there. There are some areas, for example at a beach with a life guard, where there may be exceptions and safe places to swim. Nonetheless, adult supervision and a life jacket are highly recommended.
Get out when you are tired
Drowning can easily occur when someone is too tired to make it safely to shore or the side of the pool. When they are young set a time limit so your child does not stay in too long and when they are old enough to make sensible choices for themselves, teach them that they have to know their limits and get out before they are too tired.
Be careful when playing
Children are more at risk of drowning when playing in water as they may not realise when a peer is struggling. Try to teach them to recognise when someone is at their limit and model 'good' or safe playing eg throwing a ball rather than dunking one another. Resist the urge to throw them into the water and teach them that they can set and defend their own boundaries with peers.
Finally, to reiterate the most important rule: Never leave them unsupervised around water.