As fun as a pool can be, it’s also a major safety risk if you don’t take the appropriate precautions.
An expert from Huntington Health, an affiliate of Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, offers some tips for a safe pool season.
“If children or non-experienced swimmers will be in the pool, it's very important to have adult supervision. I think asking another child to watch after their sibling, for example, is not adequate,” said Dr. Amal Obaid-Schmid, medical director of trauma services at Huntington Health.
“You need a supervisor who's an adult, who is not distracted with their cellphone, or a phone call inside the house, or a conversation with another adult, really taking that role very seriously. Not letting your eye off the child is huge because drowning can happen in an instant,” she said in a Cedars-Sinai news release.
More children aged 1 to 4 die from drowning than any other cause of death, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Pool owners should be sure to have a fence at least four feet high around their pool, Obaid-Schmid advised.
Keep a variety of flotation devices in and around the pool — a life jacket plus pool noodles or a paddle board — so that a drowning person has something to grab to help them get out of the pool quickly.
Have a cellphone in the pool area so that you can call for help immediately.
Adults should also learn basic CPR.
The steps are:
- Place the person on their back and gently lift their chin and tilt their head back.
- Pinch their nose and place your mouth tightly over their mouth and administer two short breaths.
- Then start chest compressions, placing one hand over the other and placing them over the patient’s breastbone and administering 30 compressions.
- Start again with the two breaths and compressions until the patient starts breathing.
Call for help and start administering CPR as quickly as possible.
Drowning isn’t the only danger with pools. Emergency department staff sometimes see significant head injuries and spinal cord injuries that come from reckless diving, Obaid-Schmid said. This happens more among teenagers and young adults.
Prevent this by making sure people are only using existing diving boards that are designed to dive into deep water. Do not dive head first into shallow water or attempt to dive from a roof or patio.
Alcohol and swimming don’t mix, increasing the risk of drowning by 37-fold.
Another risk is a condition called “dry drowning.” This happens after a near-drowning event in which water gets into someone’s lungs and causes a laryngospasm. That means the airway is closed off and can't provide someone with enough oxygen.
This can happen from several hours to 24 hours after the near-drowning incident.
The signs may be subtle. They can include coughing, vomiting, not being able to talk or just not appearing well. Call 911 or go to the emergency department right away. This is very rare, but can be fatal.
Safe Kids Worldwide has more on swimming safety.
SOURCE: Cedars-Sinai, news release, May 31, 2023