SATURDAY, JUNE 22, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Pools can provide lots of fun and exercise for children, but a fun day can turn dangerous if proper safety precautions aren't followed, an expert warns.
Never leave children alone in or near a pool and be sure that they are always supervised by an adult who can swim, said Dr. Natalie Lane, medical director of the emergency department at Children's Hospital of Georgia.
In addition, don't use inflatable rafts or other flotation devices as substitutes for approved life vests, and keep children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings.
Teach children how to swim or at least make sure they know basic water-safety tips, Lane advised in a hospital news release. Parents and caregivers should learn CPR and rescue breathing. It is a good idea to create an emergency action plan with your family and rehearse each member's role.
And keeping a phone at poolside can also be a life-saver in the event of an emergency, she added.
A fence at least 4-feet high should surround the pool area and gates should be self-closing and self-latching. Place a safety cover over the pool when it's not in use and install a pool alarm to alert you when children are near the water.
Pool owners should also have a qualified professional inspect drain suction fittings and covers regularly to make sure they meet safety standards, Lane said.
Drowning is the leading cause of death among American children under age 5, with youngsters aged 1 to 4 more likely to drown in a residential pool than in any other body of water. Parents should not install a swimming pool until their children are over age 5, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends.
The Nemours Foundation has more about protecting children from drowning.