April 11, 2011
As summer approaches, like many families, you may be planning a trip to your favorite beach or pool. But before you put on your bathing suit and sunscreen, reviewing water safety for your children is a must. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), water safety is a multi-faceted system of prevention with the first line very likely being swim lessons.
After a recent review of the data, the AAP has updated its position on when/at what age to start children in swim lessons. It is still strongly encouraged that most children age 4 or older learn to swim through formal swim lessons. But after some recent studies indicating that children age 1-3 are less likely to drown if they have had some type of formal swim lesson, the AAP is no longer excluding this age group from their recommendation. Parents, however, are advised to consider their child’s frequency of exposureto water, emotional maturity, and any physicallimitations before starting their child in swim lessons before age 4. There are still no studies supporting the effectiveness of swim classes for children younger than 1 year old, including water survival programs.
Swimming skills are important, but of course, they are not a substitute for parental supervision. Children can drown in a small amount of water in a very short period of time and therefore under no circumstances should be left alone near water, including pools, bathtubs, etc. Close attention has recently been brought to the large inflatable, portable pools that are growing in popularity. Because they are soft sided, children can lean on them and fall in headfirst. And, because they are considered portable, they are not required to be fenced in. Caregivers should always be within an arm’s reach of toddlers or weaker swimmers and have constant supervision of more skilled swimmers (turn off your cell phones!). The safest swim aid for children is a life jacket and it should be worn when in or around water. Inflatable aids such as arm bands are not recommended as they can deflate and do not keep swimmers safe.
Swim lessons, parental supervision, and life jackets are all equally important ways to protect your children around water. Being prepared can make all the difference.
Have a safe and fun summer…..and don’t forget the sunscreen!