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Water Safety Tips

It’s something most parents think could never happen to their  family, but every year in the United States nearly 1,000 children drown. For every child who drowns, four more are hospitalized for near-drowning. In Florida, drowning rates for children under age 5 are more than double the national average and are higher than any other state in the nation.

“Two-thirds of childhood drownings occur between May and August, making drowning the biggest summertime risk,” said St. Joseph’s Children’s Advocate Bevin Maynard.

Below are five truths about children who drown and what you can do to help keep your children safe around water.

Truth 1 - Weak or No Supervision
Children drown quickly and silently—in as little as one inch of water and in a matter of seconds.

“Most drownings happen when a child is left unattended or during a brief lapse in supervision,” said Maynard.

What you can do about it:

  • Actively supervise while children are playing in or near water.
  • Never leave young children unattended in bathtubs, even for a moment.  
  • Never rely on a personal flotation device (arm band swimmies, water wings, rafts, etc.) to protect a child.
  • Keep rescue equipment, a telephone and emergency numbers poolside.

Truth 2 – No Barriers
Curious children, especially those younger than 4 years old, can easily find and fall in to bodies of water like pools, tubs and buckets.

“Unlike the cries for help heard with most injuries, drowning is quiet,” said Maynard. “Two minutes following submersion, a child will lose consciousness, and irreversible brain damage can occur after just four to six minutes.”

What you can do about it:

  • Never leave a child alone when in or near a body of water—even if it’s less than a few inches. 
  • For pool owners, install four-sided isolation fencing, at least 5 feet high, and equipped with self-closing, self-latching gates. Fencing should completely surround swimming pools and prevent direct access from a house or yard. 
  • Door alarms, pool alarms and pool covers, when used correctly, can add an extra level of protection.
  • Hot tubs should be covered and locked when not in use. 

Truth 3 – Weak or No CPR Skills
Performing CPR on drowning victims immediately – before paramedics arrive – may prevent brain damage and be the difference between life and death.

What you can do about it:

  • Get certified. 
  • To sign up for an upcoming infant and child CPR class at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, go to www.stjosephschildrens.com.  

Truth 4 – Weak or No Swimming Ability
According to Maynard, children from non-swimming households are eight times more likely to be at-risk of drowning. Minority children have especially low rates of swimming ability and high rates of drowning.

What you can do about it:

  • Enroll children in swimming lessons taught by qualified instructors when they are ready. Afterwards, do not assume your child is "drown-proof" - he or she still needs constant supervision. 
  • To locate swimming lessons and additional water safety resources in the Tampa Bay area, please go to www.hillsboroughwatersafetyteam.org and click on the resources tab, or contact the America Red Cross Tampa Bay Chapter at (813) 348-4820.

Truth 5 – Lack of Life Jacket Use
Safe Kids USA reports that more than 4,500 boating accidents occur each year in open waters (lakes, rivers and oceans) and close to 800 people drown. Of those who drown, nine out of 10 are not wearing a life jacket. Also, alcohol use is involved in up to one in five reported boating fatalities.

What you can do about it:

  • Children should always wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal floatation device when on a boat, near open bodies of water or when participating in water sports. 
  • Children ages 14 and under should never operate a personal watercraft.
  • Adults should avoid or moderate alcohol consumption when boating.

To schedule an interview with one of our child safety experts on drowning prevention, please contact Amy Gall at (813) 870-4731.

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