Be cool around the pool this summer
Published: Thursday, June 02, 2011, 2:55 PM Updated: Thursday, June 02, 2011, 2:57 PM
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — ALL SHORES — When it's hot, nothing feels better than a refreshing dip in the pool. But don't sacrifice safety for comfort.
Staten Island Advance File Photo
When visiting a pool facility with your children, survey the area to check for fencing that can limit your child's access to the water. Ask if the pool has been recently inspected and how often the water is tested. Check to see that a lifeguard is on duty and that life rings and reaching poles are available. Also, look to see if the pump is running while children are in the pool.
Pool use can be dangerous. Before this summer starts to heat up, let's review some pool safety guidelines for children.
Whenever youngsters get together to swim or play in water, adhering to some basic rules can help ensure that a refreshing splash doesn't turn into something tragic or life threatening.
These guidelines should be considered whenever children have access to recreational water, whether it is a pool (public or private), hot tub, spa, or an open body of water such as a lake, river or ocean.
When visiting a pool facility with your children, survey the area to check for fencing that can limit your child's access to the water.
Ask if the pool has been recently inspected and how often the water is tested. Check to see that a lifeguard is on duty and that life rings and reaching poles are available. Also, look to see if the pump is running while children are in the pool.
Finally, check-in with the lifeguard about any additional swimming concerns you might have.
Once your children enter the pool, keep an eye on them and make sure they are visible to you at all times. While swimming lessons for children ages 4 and older are advised by the American Academy of Pediatrics, as well as water-safety classes for toddlers and preschoolers, this does not mean that those who attend such aquatic programs are drown-proof.
Likewise, if children are wearing a flotation swimsuit or using inflatable arm bands (known as swimmies or water wings), they still need close supervision. These types of flotation equipment are swimming aids and not meant to be used as life preservers.
Submersions and drownings of children can happen quickly, often in the time it takes to answer a phone call, run to the bathroom or return to the house or car for some forgotten item. In case of an emergency, it would be important to keep a charged phone nearby to call 911.
Allow older children use different depth levels of the pool based on their experience and comfort in the water. Ask yourself: Does my child know how to swim? Do I know how to swim? Are there people nearby who are trained in life-saving techniques?
To avoid entrapment, keep children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings. This can especially be important in a hot tub or spa because of the powerful suction necessary to move water through the jets. If a child goes missing, remember always to look for him/her in the pool or spa first! Every second counts!
PREVENTION IS KEY
If the pool you will be using is your own, you have a responsibility to safeguard it from curious youngsters (whether they are your own or kids in the neighborhood).
Barricade the pool completely with a fence that is at least 4-feet high. Secure the fence with a self-closing gate and lock. Keep patio chairs, planters and other such lawn items that can be used for climbing, away from the outside perimeter of the fence.
Make sure all doors and windows leading to the pool area are secured to prevent children from getting to the pool.
Consider buying one or more of the alarms that are available for pool safety, including pool, gate, surface wave and/or underwater alarms.
And, although expensive, various pool covers can also be part of a plan for pool safety. There are some made of solid material that are retractable and completely cover and secure the pool. An individual could stand on the cover, and it would support their weight. Note: Solar and winter pool covers are not safety covers.
If your child will be swimming in a friend's pool, talk to the parents in advance and try to establish a shared and consistent set of water safety rules.
Water accidents and their potentially tragic results affect families, neighbors, schools and society. We are all richer when we take the appropriate steps to ensure the safety of children. For more information, visit the "Resources for Parents & Families" section at http://poolsafety.gov. There, you and your child can play some educational games and complete an activity that reviews and promotes safety steps for kids and their caregivers.
This column was prepared as a community service by Dr. Edward McCabe, assistant director of adolescent medicine at Staten Island University Hospital.
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