Adding to our post yesterday on managing young twins at the pool, here is an expert interview that we found on the Multiples and More blog. This is more on pool safety overall and we felt it was worth sharing with all of our moms.
Dr. Julie Gilchrist a medical epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Injury Center’s Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention answered the following questions from the Multiples and More moderators.
What are some common mistakes parents make when it comes to pool safety?
Parents may mistakenly believe that supervision is enough to keep their young children out of a pool when they are not expected to be there. Parents may underestimate the mobility of their children. Barriers, such as four-sided pool fencing, can help prevent children from gaining unintended access to the pool area from the house without the caregivers’ awareness. Most young children who drowned in residential pools had been out of sight less than five minutes and were in the care of one or both parents at the time.
Also, parents may think that they will hear if a child is having trouble in the water. But children most commonly drown quickly and quietly. Many drown in the midst of a pool party with many people around. If you are hosting a gathering where children may have access to the pool, designate one adult to have eyes on the pool activities at all times. Rotating the responsibility will ensure everyone can enjoy the other activities. Just make sure everyone knows who is the ‘water watcher’ – don’t assume!
I've heard of pool alarms (where it alerts parents that someone is in the pool), do you feel these are effective to preventing accidents?
The most effective means to reduce drowning in residential pools is to prevent access to the water by installing four-sided fences with self-closing, self-latching gates. If the house forms a side of the barrier, using a power safety cover over the pool will also prevent access to the water. Pool alarms which alert the home owner when someone enters the pool can be an additional layer of protection but is not a substitute for physical barriers such as fencing and weight-bearing safety covers. The Consumer Product Safety Commission evaluated some pool alarms and their report is available at: http://www.cpsc.gov/LIBRARY/alarm.pdf.
At what age would you recommend a child to take swim lessons?
The American Academy of Pediatrics and CDC both believe that all children should learn to be safe in and around the water. Swimming is more than just a recreational activity (although it is an exceptional form of exercise); it is a valuable, potentially lifesaving skill. Recent studies suggest that formal swimming lessons may be beneficial even among preschool aged children. We suggest that parents consider the child’s potential exposure to water (i.e., whether they ever have access to pools, ponds, or other water hazards) and developmental readiness for lessons in consultation with their pediatrician to determine the appropriate time to start lessons. However, even with swim lessons, we caution parents to resist any false sense of security. No child is drown proof. Every child regardless of swim training should be appropriately protected from unintended access to the water with four-sided isolation pool fencing and additional adjunctive barriers as appropriate (door locks/alarms, pool alarms or weight bearing pool covers).
Additionally, when in the water, all children should be appropriately supervised at all times regardless of their participation in swimming classes.
Besides fences and swim lessons, what other tips do you have to keep the pool safe?
I encourage parents and caregivers to learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). In the time it might take for paramedics to arrive, your CPR skills could make a difference in someone's life.
What tips do you have for pool safety at a community pool, or a friend/family home?
In any venue, even if there is a lifeguard, children should be supervised by a parent or caregiver. In crowded pools, lifeguards often don’t see a child in trouble until another patron alerts them. Parents should carefully watch their children at any aquatic venue they visit.
Additionally, parents should be aware of some preventable health risks associated with aquatic activities.
- Recreational water illness - ingesting contaminated pool water from ill children or young children not yet toilet trained; prevention includes appropriate chemicals to treat and behavior to prevent contamination.
- Water intoxication - ingestion of large amounts of water by very young children can dilute the blood and lead to seizures; do not forcibly dunk children and watch for excessive swallowing of water.
- Hypothermia – reduction of body temperature in cool water; very young children may not be able to maintain their body temperature in water below 90 degrees. Body heat dissipates 30 times faster in water than air and small children have a large body surface area relative to their mass and are affected more quickly.
- Psychological stress from negative experiences in or around the water; these can lead to a life-long fear or avoidance of the water.