Tips for Staying Safe Around the Water

(Photo courtesy YMCA of the USA)
(Photo courtesy YMCA of the USA)

Summer means that more children spend time in and around water areas such as pools, lakes and oceans. Like many parents, you worry about your children’s safety around water, no matter how old they are.

According to the CDC, drowning is the leading cause of injury death among children aged 1-4, and the third leading cause of unintentional injury death in children and adolescents aged 5-19. Two children die every day due to drowning, and according to a study from the National SAFE KIDS Campaign, 88 percent of children who drown do so while under adult supervision. Many don’t realize that drowning can occur quietly, with no overt signs that the child is in trouble.

The good news is that you can follow safety tips — and teach your children skills — to help keep them safe while enjoying water activities. Supervising children vigilantly and creating barriers to accessing water unexpectedly are the first steps in averting a tragedy. Teaching children how to be safe in and around water is one of the most important life skills parents can give their children. In fact, research shows that participation in formal water safety and swim lessons can reduce the risk of drowning among children 1 to 4 years of age.

Lindsay Mondick, senior manager of aquatics at YMCA of the USA (Y-USA), offers the following safety tips to protect children from harm around water, whether it’s in the bathtub, at the beach or in a pool.

Never swim alone.

Nobody should swim by themselves, in case of accident. Teach your children that they should never enter the water anywhere without a lifeguard or responsible caregiver attending them.

Stay attentive and watch without distraction.

If you’re with a large group, or even if a lifeguard is present, designate one person to watch the child or children at all times. If children are in a pool or near a body of water, a caregiver needs to be close, paying full attention and not being distracted by a phone or other diversions.

Wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets.

Children and adolescents must wear appropriately sized and weighted life jackets in or around watercraft. It’s important to understand that not all life jackets are Coast Guard-approved. Adults can check this feature by looking at the tag on the inside of the jacket. Nonswimmers and small children should always wear life jackets when near water and while swimming. Adults should also wear them to model safe behavior.

Don’t practice holding your breath under water.

Children should not have breath-holding contests or participate in underwater swimming challenges that could risk their lives.

Learn CPR.

When seconds count, bystanders may be the first to help, so learning CPR may save a life. If you were CPR-certified years ago, take a refresher course. CPR classes are available at community centers, hospitals and the American Red Cross.

(Photo courtesy YMCA of the USA)
(Photo courtesy YMCA of the USA)

Teach basic swim skills early.

Not only do most children enjoy swimming lessons, but taking formal lessons can save their lives. Many free or reduced-cost options for classes are available at your local YMCA for children from 6 months old through adults. Learning basic water safety and swimming skills at an early age helps children cope with potential dangers.

In Safety Around Water classes at the Y, adults and children learn what to do if they find themselves in water unexpectedly. Participants practice basic skills like how to float and tread water; learning how to push off the bottom of the pool as they are submerging to get back to the surface can help a child find and grab the side of the pool for safety.

Each year, the Y teaches over a million children and teens how to swim, providing lessons about water safety in a fun, safe environment. Water safety not only saves lives but also builds confidence. Learning to enjoy activities in and around the water nurtures children’s social-emotional, cognitive and physical development. Water safety and swimming lessons promote a lifelong enjoyment of swimming while encouraging healthy living.

For more information, visit