Temperatures are pushing the toward 90 degrees in Portland and water play is looking increasingly attractive to humans of all ages. You may have noticed a sort of gravitational pull toward water play in your curious little ones. Recently the American Academy of Pediatrics updated their recommendations on water safety this March, publishing the policy statement Prevention of Drowning. In it, we can find some sobering statistics: Drowning is the leading cause of injury death in children ages 1-4 and the third leading cause of injury death in children 5-19. While toddlers have the highest rate of drowning, it's important to note that the group with the second highest drowning rate are 15-19 year olds.
If you're like me, it hurts to think about the unintentional deaths of kids lost to drowning. You might be tempted to believe you would never let it happen to your child. I would encourage you to think about when you were a small child. Did you ever get an idea about something you wanted to do and then try to find a way to make it happen sneakily just to feel independent? My kiddo recently figured out how to open every door in the house and is working on the deadbolts. 24/7 vigilance is HARD and drowning can occur in as little as 30 seconds.
HealthyChildren.org has an article on preventing drowning in toddlers. In it, you can find useful tips on how to keep water risks to a minimum. The AAP is now recommending swim lessons and water survival skills training for children as young as 1 year! There are also links to related articles on drowning prevention and swim lessons. For adolescents, knowing their water competency and swimming skill and not combining water with risky behaviors is the primary focus for drowning prevention. Talking with your teen is the first step in helping them identify risks to their safety.
Do you have a kiddie pool at home that you keep filled during the summer? Does your neighbor have an un-fenced pool? Do you have a water feature in your yard? Does your child like to fill the bathroom sink with water to play in? Do you have an open rain barrel? Look around and take an inventory of where risk could be found. Knowing they are there will help you identify steps you can take and foster critical awareness that can prevent tragedy.