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Health Tips for Parents

2005 Issues

What are some Tips for Keeping Kids Safe in the Water?

Summer break is around the corner and it’s starting to get hot outside – two signs that children will soon be enjoying beaches, pools, lakes and water parks. Parents should prepare children to have a safe, fun time around the water.

Unsupervised water play can be deadly. Drowning is the second leading cause of injury-related death for children under 14 years of age and the number one cause of injury-related death for children under 4 years old. A child can drown in shallow or deep water in a matter of minutes. Extended periods of water play can also lead to heatstroke and dehydration.

Keeping Children Safe at Home
All children 4 years old and above should learn to swim. Swimming instruction is readily available through local YMCAs and the Red Cross. Do not assume that children who know how to swim do not need supervision; they still need constant monitoring around water.

A fence should enclose backyard pools. Look beyond your own backyard for potential dangers in the neighborhood. Investigate which neighbors have pools or spas and whether adequate fencing encloses them. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, adequate fencing – and not the pool covers and new alarm devices – is the best measure of protection against accidental drowning.

Look for other less-obvious temptations in the neighborhood. Are there any ponds or creeks that might attract a curious child? Talk to your children about the dangers of entering any of these bodies of water without adult supervision. Additionally, discuss proper pool behavior with children including:
• Horseplay can lead to injuries; children should not push each other around the pool or play rough in the water.
• Never dive in areas that are not marked for diving; doing so could lead to neck injuries, paralysis or death.
• Children can become overheated in spas if exposed too long.

Finally, be prepared for an emergency: learn CPR techniques, keep rescue equipment (such as a life preserver) handy, and make sure a telephone is located near the pool.

Safety Away from Home
Adult supervision and swimming skills are also important at beaches, lakes and water parks, but these places also pose some unique threats to children. Make sure that children never swim alone – teach them the importance of having a “buddy” looking out for them. Unlike pools, a lake or ocean may have a current or undertow or may suddenly and unexpectedly become deep, which can frighten a child. These bodies of water may also contain seaweed or jagged rocks, broken glass or garbage – special footwear (such as aqua shoes) for lakes and oceans may be a good idea. Teach children to swim only when a lifeguard is on duty.

Water parks provide hours of fun – but are crowded and contain potential hazards. Know your child’s limits and ability to go on rides, even if a child meets the height requirements. Teach children the importance of following all rules and directions at the water park to ensure their safety and the safety of others.

This information is provided courtesy of the pediatricians at the Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA. UCLA Healthcare pediatricians are conveniently located in your neighborhood. In addition to our Children’s Health Center in Westwood, we have offices in Brentwood, Culver City, Manhattan Beach, Santa Monica, and West Los Angeles. Additional information can be found on the UCLA Healthcare web site at www.healthcare.ucla.edu or by calling 1-800-UCLA-MD1 (1-800-825-2631).

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