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Make Swimming a Safety Sport for Kids

Advice on how to make sure your children don't drown

FRIDAY, May 28, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- With the start of the summer season this Memorial Day weekend, parents are being reminded to make sure their children stay safe in and around the water.

Drowning is the second leading injury-related cause of death among American children aged 1-14, says the National SAFE KIDS Campaign. A study by SAFE KIDS found 88 percent of children who drowned in the United States in 2000 and 2001 were under the supervision of another person, usually a family member.

Along with poor quality of supervision, the study revealed that many adults don't properly fence pools, don't require the use of personal flotation devices (PFDs), or don't teach their children how to swim.

SAFE KIDS urges parents to follow these four "Water Safety Wisdoms" when their children are in and around water:

  • Supervision. Adults should take turns being the designated water watcher, someone whose sole responsibility is to supervise children in or near the water. Active supervision means the adult is always able to see and hear the children and is close enough to take action if there's an emergency.
  • Environment. Make pools and spas safe by installing four-sided isolation fencing, which could prevent an estimated 50 percent to 90 percent of drownings if used by every pool and spa owner. Isolation fencing means the fence completely separates the pool area from the house and the rest of the property. This prevents a child from walking directly out the back door of the house to the pool.
  • Gear. Use properly -fitted life vests, especially when boating, using personal watercraft, or taking part in water sports.
  • Education. By age 8, children should be enrolled in swimming lessons with a certified instructor. The SAFE KIDS study found that nearly 75 percent of kids who drowned didn't know how to swim.

The SAFE KIDS study also revealed that many people don't understand the importance of water safety. For example:

  • More than half the parents (55 percent) surveyed said they believed there are some circumstances where it's acceptable for children to swim unsupervised.
  • Nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of parents with pools or spas don't have isolation fencing and 43 percent don't have self-closing or self-latching pool gates.
  • Many children aged 8 to 12 admitted they never wear a life jacket when riding a personal watercraft (50 percent), taking part in water sports (37 percent), or when they're in a boat (16 percent).
  • Many of the parents agreed that all children should have swimming lessons by the age 8, yet 37 percent of the parents of children aged 5 to 14 said their child had never taken swimming lessons.

More information

The American Red Cross offers numerous water safety tips.

SOURCE: SAFE KIDS, news release, May 25, 2004
Consumer News