Perils of the paddling pool
Install fence to limit access
BY DR. SUE HUBBARD, SPECIAL TO THE PROVINCE AUGUST 7, 2011
In the summer, many families create memories and cool down at the beach, lake, or pool. Of course, the main concern is fun, but the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of water is safety.
Knowing that over 900 children between the ages of one and 14 drown each year, a discussion of water safety procedures is a necessary part of summer routines. Astoundingly, reports show that nine out of 10 children who drown are “under supervision.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics has endorsed allowing children between the ages of one to four to take swimming lessons.
It was previously thought encouraging swimming lessons for children under age four might have actually increased the number of drownings. But recent studies suggest children ages one to four may be less likely to drown if they’ve had formal swimming instruction.
The AAP has not gone so far as to routinely recommend mandatory swimming lessons for this age group, but does endorse swimming lessons for younger children who are frequently exposed to water and are emotionally and physically able to participate. The AAP does not recommend “infant survival swimming lessons” for children under age one.
Drowning is the second leading cause of death for children ages one to 9. Often parents who have a backyard pool don’t believe it’s necessary to install a barrier around the pool. They may claim, “we never let our child outside alone,” or their child “is always being supervised by an adult.”
These are usually first-time parents who’ve yet to experience the cunning of a toddler. Just as our children watch us and learn how to feed themselves, they also watch us open doors and use a stool to reach something. A toddler is more than capable of figuring out how to open a door, even one with a lock, or climb out a window and head straight for the pool.
Drowning is silent. Children slip quietly beneath the surface and sink. It only takes minutes, but the consequences of are devastating. Even for a child who’s resuscitated, there may be a lifelong brain injury.
All families with a pool should install a four-sided fence that’s at least four feet high to limit pool access. It should be difficult to climb and have a self- latching, selfclosing gate. The arguments I hear about “landscape aesthetics” fall on deaf ears. Every family should know CPR, too.
Sign up your child for swimming lessons and have fun practising flutter kicks and arm strokes together. Just be sure there’s an adult within arm’s reach of all novices – and a fence around the pool
Dr. Sue Hubbard is a nationally known pediatrician and co-host of “The Kid’s Doctor” radio show.
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