With summer comes swimming, and with swimming comes fun, merriment, panic and debilitating fear. Stop! Summertime swimming is a right of passage for kids of any age—it’s up to us as parents to keep it fun, but also safe.

Did you know that it takes only 2-3 minutes to lose consciousness and stop breathing? If the brain goes more than 6 minutes without oxygen, someone has lost a child. Learning how to keep your family safe around water is so vitally important and since we are around outdoor water dangers so few months of the year, it’s worth a reminder or two on being vigilant.

#1 Don’t take your eyes off your kids while they’re in the water. Not even for a second.

The phone rings, you need to grab a new bottle of sunscreen, cobble together some snacks…there are a million reasons to run into the house for what you may think is a quick task and hauling the kids out of the pool seems like such a chore. But it takes only a second for a child to swim to the deep end or hit their head doing cannonballs. Make it a rule that when a parent leaves the premises, everyone gets out of the pool, no exceptions.

#2 Don’t rely on life guards, other parents or older kids to be your eyes and ears.

I’ve often asked myself, “How is it possible that kids drown in public pools when there are so many people around?” It happens, and it happens a lot. After my neighbor yanked my then-three year old out after he tripped off the pool step (which I completely missed and felt like the worst mother ever), I get it now. A crowded pool is even more dangerous than a private one because of all the commotion and parents tend to let their guard down thinking, “If I don’t see my child fall in, someone will.” Whether you’re at a public pool or a pool party, be extremely vigilant of your kids’ activities in the water. Most children won’t call for help and it’s easy to mistake a child in peril for a child splashing or swimming under water.

#3 Talk to your kids about water safety.

Just like we practice fire drills, talk to your kids about what how to stay safe while swimming. Explain the pool boundaries (i.e. no swimming over your head, no diving in the shallow end), encourage them to yell for help and teach them to locate the closest pool edge or solace above water. They’ll be more confident in the water and so will you.

#4 Enroll your child in swim lessons.

You may think your child is a “swims like a fish” in the water, but would they know how to swim themselves to safety in a lake or the ocean? Professional swim lessons not only teach kids the basics, but also instill best practices in water safety. Most public pools and local YMCAs offer swim lessons and there are many private companies that offer lessons for all ages and abilities. Teach your kids to be strong swimmers. It could save their life.

#5 Enroll yourself in a CPR course.

We don’t even want to think the unthinkable could happen, but would you be prepared if it did? Contact your local hospital and sign up for a lifesaving CPR course that teaches you the basics of how to handle an emergency situation until medical professionals arrive. Knowledge is power!

#6 Learn about “dry drowning.”

According to the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), dry drowning occurs after you inhale water through your nose or mouth, spurring a spasm and blocking your airway, which prevents proper breathing. You may have also heard the term “secondary drowning” or “delayed drowning”, which also involves ingesting water that makes its way to your lungs, causes inflammation or swelling and impairs breathing over time. Both can be deadly.

If your child accidentally swallows a large amount of water, he or she may experience trouble breathing, coughing, sleepiness or a drop in energy, irritability, chest pain, or vomiting.

In the case of dry drowning, these symptoms will likely occur soon after the water is swallowed. In secondary drowning, the symptoms often don’t appear until a few hours—or even days—after the incident. If you notice these warn signings, go to the hospital and get checked out.

The good news is, these conditions are both rare, so as long as you keep an eye on your kids while they’re in the pool and take note of any unusual symptoms, you should be able to enjoy the water with little worry this summer.

Accidents can happen even when you’ve taken every safety precaution available. There’s no substitute for being a hyper-vigilant watchdog when it comes to your kids and the water. This is one situation where being “overprotective” is definitely OK.


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