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What to know about water safety before heading to the beach or pool this summer

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — With school out of session for the summer and temperatures rising across the country, many families will be heading to the beach, lake or local pool. Now is the time to review safety tips to keep children safe in the water.

Drowning is the leading cause of death According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is the second leading cause of unintended death in children ages 1 to 4 and the second leading cause of unintended death in children ages 5 to 14.

In the United States, 973 children under the age of 19 drowned in 2021, and another 6,500 children were treated in emergency rooms after near-drowning incidents, according to Gary Karton of Safe Kids Worldwide, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing child injuries.

According to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, more drownings occur in the summer, especially July, than any other time of year.

Daniel Barnickel, a lifeguard with Palm Beach County Ocean Rescue, said there should always be an adult supervising the water.

“Never swim alone,” he said.

It can be beneficial for children and their parents if they take the time to review safety procedures and rules before going to the pool or beach.

The most important safety feature of a garden pool is a barrier, such as a safety fence, to prevent unattended persons from entering the water.

According to the government, many children drowned at home when they were not expected in the water. American Red CrossIn some cases, the children were out of sight and in the care of one or both parents for less than five minutes when they slipped into the pool and drowned, the agency said.

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That said, it is vital to make sure that children learn to swim. There are many programs that teach children to swim, including the Red Cross swimming classes in the US.

When a child goes missing, remember that seconds count. Check the water first, safety experts advise. It is also important to have the right equipment at home. This includes something to throw in the water for a child to hold, a cell phone to call help, life jackets, and a first aid kit.

According to Safe Kids Worldwide, all children should learn to step or jump into water above their heads, return to the surface safely, and also be able to float or tread water.

They also need to be able to quickly turn around in the water and find a safe place, combine breathing with moving forward in the water and get out of the water.

If there are several adults at the pool, beach or lake with a group of children, choose a water attendant who can keep an eye on the children at all times. It’s a good idea to rotate the water attendant among the adults for short periods of time, such as every 15 minutes, experts at Safe Kids Worldwide recommend.

When you are in the pool or around the water, it is advisable to avoid distractions. Put away phones, books and magazines because drowning often happens silently and can happen in less than five minutes.

Once you’re done swimming, be sure to remove all floats and pool toys so young children aren’t tempted to reach for them.

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Teach children to stay away from pool drains or suction devices, which could trap swimmers’ hair or limbs.

Since 2014, all public pools and spas in the US must comply with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act, named after a 7-year-old girl who died in 2002 after being seized by the strong suction of a hot tub drain. Her mother lobbied Congress to mandate drain covers and other safety features for swimming pools.

But even with these safety measures, experts say it’s a good idea to check drains and appliances before kids get in the pool.

Always swim with a buddy or in an area where a lifeguard supervises.

“Don’t overestimate your own abilities,” Barnickel said. “Know your limits.”

Have young or inexperienced children wear life jackets approved by the U.S. Coast Guard. The size of the life jacket should be based on the child’s height and weight. Never replace life jackets with armbands or inflatable swimming rings.

It is best to always keep children within easy reach of an adult when they are in the water. Also teach them to always ask permission when they come near the water.

Enforce safety rules, including no running or pushing on the pool deck and no dunking people in the water. It’s also a good idea to prevent them from chewing gum or eating while swimming or jumping in the water.

Experts also recommend making sure children know how deep the water is so they don’t dive into the shallow end and get hurt.

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Open water, like the ocean or a lake, is very different than a backyard pool.

Children should understand that there may be limited visibility and uneven surfaces in the ocean and lakes. They also need to be taught about currents and undertow, which can pull them underwater and away from shore.

“Year after year, rip currents in South Florida claim more lives than all weather-related hazards combined,” Barnickel said. “We’ve seen people come here who have been going to the beach all their lives, and they’ve never been caught in a rip current, or they think they have been and they know what to do. And then they get swept away in a rip current. We go out to get them, and they say, ‘I can’t believe that happened.’”

If you are at a beach or lake, it is important to use designated swimming or recreation areas. Look for signs that provide information about water hazards and the times that lifeguards will be on duty.

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