It’s summertime, the sun is hot and kids are going to be playing in the parks and beaches. Getting to the water, whether ocean, lake or river, means summer fun and cool relief from hot weather. But water can also be dangerous for kids if parents don’t take some precautions. Are you ready to help your kids to be safe around the water?
Drowning is a significant risk for children, even where it seems unlikely, impossible even. Drowning is the second leading cause of preventable death for children with children under five at particular risk. They are attracted to the water but cannot understand the potential danger.
According to Preventable, half of children who drowned were alone and unsupervised at the time. That’s not all: for each toddler who dies from drowning, there are some six to 10 near-drowning cases which require hospitalization. Of these, 20 per cent sustain permanent brain damage.
It is difficult to comprehend that your child might drown, but there are things we can all do to reduce that risk. Let’s start with you: there is no substitute for active supervision when kids are around the water.
Be attentive at all times: put away that cellphone and forget about all the other things you need to do
For younger kids, ‘touch supervision’ is the rule. That means being within immediate reach of them when they’re in or near the water.
But your child already knows how to swim? Great, but don’t assume they should not be supervised. If your child does not know how to swim, enroll them (how about today?) in a program that will teach them. They will not only learn to swim, but also how to be safe around water. And while we’re on the subject of swimming skills, do you know how to swim? This could be a good time to learn as well. In fact, anyone over age four should be able to swim — you just never know.
Whether you know how to swim or not, knowing CPR is also a good idea. There is a good chance you will never need the skills, but that’s a better outcome than needing to know CPR and not having it. Good information about water safety can be found online at Canadian Red Cross and HealthLink BC.
Mandatory when boating, personal floatation devices (life jackets or PFDs) are good for kids to wear whenever near water. They will not reduce the need for supervision, but they will certainly make things easier, and safer, for your child. Consider requiring all non-swimmers to wear a PFD to give them the best chance if they get into trouble in the water.
And on the topic of PFDs, fun toys like water wings, noodles and inflatables are not swimming aids. They’re great to play with and keep kids active, but they cannot substitute for safety, so don’t rely on them as such.
We live in a region with amazing water resources like the ocean, rivers and lakes too many to count. Many of us have boats, kayaks and other watercraft, and most of us have a favourite beach or lake; water is in our lives. And who doesn’t have a memory of some wonderful summer from childhood? Keeping summer memories wonderful involves being careful around water.
Written by Dr. Paul Martiquet, Medical Health Officer for Rural Vancouver Coastal Health including Powell River, the Sunshine Coast, Sea-to-Sky, Bella Bella and Bella Coola.