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Pool and Water Safety in Florida

Posted on Apr 15, 2019

Florida kids are drawn to the water, which makes it imperative that families are diligent about water safety throughout the year. In this week’s On Call for All Kids, Joe Perno, M.D., from Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, explains what to watch out for when it comes to pools and water safety.  

Florida leads the country in drownings for toddlers ages 1-4. What can we do to keep kids safe?

The best protection from drowning is a four-sided fence around a pool. This would be a fence that does not use the house as one of the four sides. A perfect example would be a child fence built around the perimeter of the pool. Of course, a fence only works if it is properly installed and up. Never stack furniture or toys near the fence. If the fence has a gate, it should have a self-latching, self-closing gate.

When should kids have swim lessons?

Swim lessons have long been encouraged by the American Academy of Pediatrics for children over age 4 as a means to decrease the risk of drowning. Although swim lessons can be very beneficial, in younger children it does not eliminate the risk of drowning. Children and parents may have a false sense of security after swim lessons and thus be less vigilant. No scientific evidence has been found to support any benefit for lessons or survival skills for children less than 1 year old.

What about supervising kids at the pool?

Often when there are multiple adults around, everyone assumes someone else is watching the kids. Many of the drowning and near-drowning events I have seen involve large parties with many children and adults present. It is very easy for a child to fall into the pool without someone noticing with so many distractions around.

It is important to designate a dedicated water watcher, similar to a designated driver. This person is to keep an eye on the pool. It is a job that should be passed on from one adult to another but it must be made very clear who is in charge of watching the pool and children at any given time. A general rule of thumb is that children should be within an arm’s length away when around a pool.

One of the most common misconceptions is that you will hear the splash as your child falls into the pool. Most times the child slides into the pool with no noise at all. Also, there is often very little splashing or crying involved as the child will rapidly sink.

I don’t have a pool, so I don’t have to worry, right?

We have seen drownings occur in bathtubs, 5-gallon buckets (child looks in, falls in and can’t get out), hot tubs and even toilets. Never leave buckets around the house with water and never leave a child in the bath unsupervised.

For more information, visit the Florida Suncoast Safe Kids Coalition.

On Call for All Kids is a weekly series featuring Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital medical experts. Visit each Monday for the latest report.

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