In Florida, water poses one of the highest risks to children as the state leads the nation in the number of drownings. Many happen at home in residential pools, but also in other bodies of water. While families’ routines may still be disrupted due to the pandemic, we have to take into consideration that weather is warming up and water safety practices in and outside of the home should be refreshed and revisited. On this week’s On Call for All Kids, Petra Stanton, Safe Kids Supervisor at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital reminds parents and caregivers of ways to keep their kids safe around water.
What age children are most susceptible to drowning?
Children from ages 1 to 4 years old are at the highest risk for unintentional drowning, both in Florida and nationally. It is because they move fast and sometimes undetected. We have to ask ourselves the question: How do I know my child can open the door? Any parent will know that the child can open the door when the child opens the door. This can be an exciting time for the family; however, if no adult is in the room, the child may exit without knowing the dangers that are outside. One of these dangers is a direct access to water. In Florida, water is everywhere and therefore children can easily reach a body of water. It can be a pool, canal or a pond. All too often, we hear stories when one parent thought the child was in the other in another room, or napping, but the child fell into the pool.
If a child falls into a pool or body of water, won’t I hear them?
Drowning often is silent. While a drowning is happening, the child may go under water and when he or she comes up, the child may only have a second to take a breath before sinking back under water. This is contrary to the popular images from movies, in which the victim of drowning screams or cries.
How can we prevent drownings and water submersions?
Safe Kids Florida Suncoast recommends protecting your children by applying layers of protection. First, have a clear view of the pool from the inside of the home. But most important, create barriers for the child to exit the home and reach the water. Elevated locks, childproofing for doors, and door alarms that are turned on might be the best way for a parent to know that someone opened the door and plans to exit. It is not necessary to have a home security alarm. Families can get relatively low cost alarms that attach to the door at online retailers.
All residential pools should be surrounded by a fence with self-closing, self-latching gates. It is also recommended to keep the furniture away from the fence, so children can’t easily climb over the fence. If you hear the child pushing the furniture, it may alarm you that they are moving outside. It may also buy you some time to prevent them from getting in the water. Remove all toys and floating objects from the pool, so it is less tempting to a child. Do not forget about pet doors, which can provide an exit point for a child. Children can be curious and try new things when they are at home.
Other bodies of water around the home, such as lakes, neighbors’ pools and canals, may pose additional dangers. That’s why it’s important to keep children inside of your home and know if they are exiting — even unintentionally. If you do not have children at home, make sure children in your neighborhood cannot access your pool. For example, lock your pool cage, install an alarm on your yard fence, just in case a child wanders out of their home and finds their way to your pool.
What about inside the house?
Don’t forget to watch children in the house because they are also at risk of drowning inside. Bathtubs and other bodies of water can pose a risk of children under the age of 1. Do not leave children unattended not even for a minute, while they are in the tub. Oftentimes, this is surprising to a parent, but children can drown in unexpected places. A few things to think about — keep your toilet seat closed and locked. Any buckets and pet bowls should be emptied to eliminate any risks. Children can drown in a very little amount of water.
What other prevention tips are there?
While swimming lessons may not be widely available in your area, it is important to teach children the following five survival skills recommended by Safe Kids Worldwide:
- Step or jump into water over your head and return to the surface.
- Float and tread water for one minute.
- Turn around in a full circle and find an exit from water.
- Swim 25 yards to the exit
- Exit from the water. In the pool, be able to exit without the ladder.
What else should we know?
Learning CPR is an important for any parent for many reasons. Even though we are in the time of physical distancing, families can use the following links to learn Hands Only CPR from the American Heart Association or the American Red Cross.
In an emergency, call 911 before starting CPR.
On Call for All Kids is a weekly series featuring Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital experts. Visit. HopkinsAllChildrens.org/Stories each Monday for the latest report.