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New Guidelines on Kids' Drowning Prevention

American Academy of Pediatrics Says Children as Young as 1 May Get Swimming Lessons

Pools Need Fences

Also, adults who supervise kids should know how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), the AAP says. In addition, all pools should be surrounded by a four-sided fence, isolating it from houses. Taking that step alone can cut downing risk in half, the AAP says.

But some laws governing pool fencing have "dangerous" loopholes, according to the AAP.

Large, inflatable above-ground pools can hold thousands of gallons of water, sometimes may require filtration systems, and often are left filled for weeks, as long as weather is warm.

Because such pools are portable, they often are exempt from local building codes that require fences around pools, AAP says.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission reported 47 deaths of children related to inflatable pools between 2004 and 2006.

"Because some of these pools have soft sides, it is very easy for a child to lean over and fall head first into the water," Weiss says. "These pools pose a constant danger."

While kids younger than age 4 might be ready for swimming lessons, the AAP says it still does not recommend formal water safety programs for tots under age 1. It says in a news release that the water-survival skills of infants are interesting to watch and make interesting videos for the Internet, but that there is no scientific evidence they are effective in preventing drowning.

In addition to considering lessons, the updated policy also outlines dangers of bodily entrapment and hair entanglement in a pool or spa drain, and points out that special drain covers and devices can reduce risk.

Drowning Prevention Tips for Parents

The AAP says parents should:

  • Never, even for a moment, leave small kids alone or in the care of another young child, in bathtubs, pools, spas or wading pools, or near irrigation ditches or standing water. Children also should not be left alone in bathrooms to avoid drowning in toilets.
  • Closely supervise kids in and around water. An adult should be within arm's length, and when watching older children, should stay focused and vigilant.
  • Make sure kids being taken care of outside the home are safe, asking caregivers about exposure to water and the ratio of adults to kids.
  • Install a four-sided fence at least 4 feet high to limit access. It should be hard to climb, not chain-link, and have a self-latching, self-closing gate. Families might want to consider rigid pool covers and alarm systems for their pools.
  • Learn CPR and make sure caregivers know it, too.
  • Do not use air-filled swimming aids, such as arm bands that inflate, in place of life jackets.
  • Make sure kids wear life jackets when in boats, and even at the edge of water, on a pier, or riverbank.
  • Be aware of the depth of water your children are playing in and be alert for any underwater hazards before letting kids jump in. Make sure kids who do jump into water do so feet first, never head first.
  • Choose swimming areas with lifeguards.
  • Make sure children and their supervisors are aware of what to do in rip currents, which is to swim parallel to the shore until out of the current before returning to shore.
  • Counsel teenagers about the increased risk of drowning when alcohol is involved.


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