Water is the center of many summer activities, but kids and water can often be a dangerous combination. We had a terrifying experience with my 2-year-old daughter recently that put her in the PICU of our local children’s hospital for two days. She nearly drowned in a hot tub while 6 adults were all standing within 10 feet of her, and none of us knew she was in trouble. An accident can happen in seconds, and kids under the age of 5 are especially at risk of drowning.
So how do you keep your children safe when they are around water?
Use a Coastguard-approved flotation device. There are some adorable flotation devices out there, but most of them are not actually designed to protect your child from drowning. Ironically, my daughter had a Coastguard-approved life jacket on until minutes before her accident. So on that same note, make sure you keep the flotation device on your child until you leave the pool unless your child is under direct adult supervision and practicing swimming skills.
Be alert. Remember those days before you had kids when you’d lounge by the pool reading a book or talking with a friend? Those days are over. As moms, relaxation is important, but there’s a time and a place for that, and when you are near the water with your kids that is definitely not one of those times.
Know the signs of drowning. Drowning does not look like drowning. My daughter did not splash. She did not yell. She simply slipped under the water, and none of us knew she was in trouble. Be sure you have eyes on your children the entire time you are near a body of water. Dry drowning can happen even after you leave the pool. Watch for children who are especially sleepy, seem confused or are otherwise acting strangely. They may need medical attention.
Know CPR. I have taken numerous CPR classes, but it’s been a while. When I actually needed to perform CPR, I froze. If you haven’t taken a class in the last few years, take a refresher course. In an emergency situation, that information needs to be fresh enough that you can recall it.
Assign a Water Watcher. While we were at the hospital with my daughter, the nurses told us about Water Watchers, a wonderful program that helps protect children from drowning. So many accidents happen when you have a group of people because everyone thinks someone else is watching the kids. The program teaches that whenever you have children near the water, you assign one person to be the official Water Watcher. No one is allowed to talk to that person. Their job is to supervise kids in the water with 100% of their attention. Every 15 minutes, you rotate so the Water Water is always alert. We will absolutely have a Water Watcher on duty every single time we are at the pool from now on.
This experience was a definite wake up call for me. I’ve always been super cautious with my kids around water, so I know if it can happen to me it can happen to anyone. Water sports are awesome for kids, but there’s danger there, too. Be vigilant near the water.
What tips do you have for keeping your kids safe near the water?