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Make a Splash With Your Kids Over the Fourth

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For these reasons, the AAP recommends swimming lessons as kids approach their fifth birthday. To prevent drowning, it also urges adults to remain within an arm's reach at all times, providing what the YMCA calls "touch supervision."

"YMCA swimming lessons and Splash classes are a great way for school-age kids to learn about water safety, but constant supervision is still the bottom line," says national aquatic director Laura Slane.

Last August, one family learned this lesson the hard way. Upon returning from work to her Avenue, Md., home, Janet Murphy found her 2-year-old son, Alex, at the bottom of the family's above-ground pool. Her 17-year-old son, Michael, was babysitting, but got distracted for a moment while washing his car. But the story has a happy ending: Janet performed CPR, and Alex survived.

Because diving is one of the most dangerous water activities, SAFE KIDS advises against diving in above-ground pools and in depths less than five feet. Teaching children to dive with their hands in front of their faces is also recommended, as is swimming toward the surface immediately after diving. But even these precautions couldn't prevent a recent accident in Atlanta.

"My son fell through the diving board railing and fractured his skull," says Lucy Daniel, mother of 3-year old Davis. "Even though there wasn't any swelling or bleeding, he had seizures for an hour and needed a breathing tube," she adds.

"Davis was back in the pool just 10 days later, but now he wears swim shoes with heavy traction." Understandably, Daniel urges age limitations on diving board use.

Similarly, doctors advise that young children be prohibited from using the personal watercraft known by names such as Jet Ski, Sea-Doo, or Waverunner. Because deaths and injuries related to these devices are increasing in children and adolescents, the AAP recommends a minimum operating age of 16 and mandatory use of flotation devices.

"Most of these incidents involve collisions with other vessels, docks, or tree stumps," says Marilyn Bull, MD, chair of the AAP injury prevention committee and professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine. "And three studies cite inexperience, inattention, excessive speed, and recklessness as factors that lead to accidents."

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