As a longtime lifeguard and swim instructor, I’ve seen a lot of skinned knees, sunburns and roughhousing gone wrong. From expert divers to floatie wearers, every family should be able to enjoy a stress-free summer. Though accidents like bee stings and swallowing water can’t be avoided sometimes, there are a few tips that can make your pool experience a great one.
Take Drowning Seriously
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drowning is the leading cause of death by unintentional injury in kids under the age of four, and the second-leading cause until age nine. This includes oceans, lakes and bathtubs. The majority of accidents, though, occur in swimming pools at the child’s own home. As scary as this sounds, there are many ways to protect kids from drowning, including…
Start Swim Lessons Early
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends swim lessons starting as early as age one, depending on the child’s comfort level and developmental abilities.
Swim lessons are one of the best ways to keep kids safe around water. They’re widely accessible, especially during the summer, and generally affordable, especially at local community pools or YMCAs. Mommy and Me classes can be a great way to help younger kids get used to the water with someone they trust, as well as a fun bonding activity.
Ensure Proper Supervision
The American Red Cross recommends each adult be in charge of no more than two children at a time. This is even more important when kids are under the age of five, or aren’t able to swim across the pool comfortably on their own. The “two kids max” rule is necessary even when a lifeguard is on duty, as accidents can still happen with proper supervision. Older siblings can be enlisted to help keep an eye on little ones, but a parent should always be nearby in case of an emergency.
Learn CPR and Get Your Child Certified
CPR is a life-saving skill that’s useful in many places, including water. Accidents can happen to anyone, no matter what age, and certification often helps parents feel more at ease.
Though some classes have an age limit, the American Heart Association doesn’t have a minimum age requirement for learning CPR, and studies have shown children as young as nine can learn and retain the necessary skills.
Most courses include basic first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillator (AED) training, which can help in the case of choking, minor scrapes, burns and cardiac arrest. Not sure where to find classes? Check the American Red Cross website (see link below) for courses offered near you.
Most pool safety advice is related to drowning risk, but direct sun is a risk unto itself. Something else to keep in mind: even if it’s a cloudy day, you’re still being exposed to UVA and UVB rays, so don’t skimp on protection.
Applying and reapplying sunscreen is especially important when kids are in and out of the water, because no sunscreen is truly water resistant. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) actually banned the use of the term “waterproof” in 2011as sunscreens only resist the water for a limited period of time.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends all kids use a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher, regardless of skin tone. Look for one that protects against UVA and UVB rays (“broad-spectrum”), and know that “water-resistant” works for a maximum of 40-80 minutes in the pool. To prevent painful sunburn and future skin damage, reapply every hour or two, and always apply after swimming.
Also be aware, some medications may make skin more sensitive to sun. Check those of families members before heading out for the pool.
• Sun Protective Clothing
Something else to consider: sun protective clothing, sometimes referred to as rash guards. From long-sleeved swim shirts to board shorts, this type of swimwear can come with up to UPF 50+ protection.
• Sunglasses with UV Protection
Don’t forget sunglasses for kids. Stats to look for in children’s sunglasses when shopping, according to Prevent Blindness America, look for those that block 100% of UVA and UVB rays.
• Be Aware of Extreme Heat Issues
Even if all precautions have been taken to protect your child from sun exposure, there’s still the possibility of sunstroke or heat stroke. Symptoms can range from headaches and cramping to nausea and disorientation. Limit time in extreme heat and stay hydrated.
Armed with knowledge, proper supervision and protection, the whole family can have a fun summer of water time.
CDC: Unintentional Drowning: Get the Facts
American Academy of Pediatrics: AAP Updates Recommendations to Prevent Drowning in Children
Red Cross: Things to Know About Water Safety
American Red Cross: CPR Training
US Food & Drug Administration: Sunscreen: How to Help Protect Your Skin from the Sun
Prevent Blindness America: Choosing UV Protection
WebMD: Protecting Your Child from Heat Illness and Dehydration