Featured Editorial

Dive In to Essential Water Safety Tips for Home and Travel to Protect Your Family

Cool, refreshing water is an inviting way to enjoy an escape from our daily activities. Whether you choose to dip your toes into the shallow end of a wading pool or SCUBA dive in pristine, crystal clear waters, proper water safety precautions are a essential part of protecting yourself and those around you. Water safety means knowing up-to-date precautions and guidelines in place to help avoid drownings, accidents, and injuries in and around water-related activities. According to research by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) statistics indicate an increase in childhood 
drowning deaths between 2019 and 2023. We were invited to attend an informational session with the National Drowning Prevention Alliance (NDPA)and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to help educate families on water safety precautions we all need to know to best protect our families. Summer time is peak season for enjoying water fun, however, any time of the year is an ideal time to dive into essential water safety tips for home and travel to best protect your family.

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Dive In to Essential Water Safety Tips for Home and Travel to Protect Your Family

Participating in the informative water safety panel were moderator Adam Katchmarchi, Ph.D.,Chief Executive Officer of the NDPA, Ben Hoffman, M.D., FAAP, President of the AAP; Blake and Kathy Collingsworth, Parent Advocates and Founders of the Joshua Collingsworth Memorial Foundation, and Julie Gilchrist, M.D., FAAP, Medical Director of the NDPA.

Dangerous misperceptions and myths about water safety lead to incidents of drowning being reported as a devastating public health issue. Families are called upon to work in partnership with pediatricians, pool and spa industries, aquatics facilities, emergency response personnel, lifeguards, and governing authorities to address the issue as a team.

The National Drowning Prevention Alliance continues efforts to raise awareness around the five layers of protection, with an added focus on water competency. Recently, NDPA launched #FirstSport initiative to help keep kids safe with the message that swimming is the only sport that teaches kids lifesaving skills.

Swim and Water Safety Instruction

One of the most important factors which significantly affects drowning rates is reflected in the level of swim ability. Consider enrollment in swimming lessons as less of a recreational activity and more of a life-saving skill. Even with swim lessons, it is essential for caregivers to never become overly confident in swim ability and to actively serve as water watchers.

Children should learn and use these five basic water safety rules as a basic safety precautions-

No running.
No diving or jumping into shallow water.
No pushing people into or while in water.
No pulling people down under the water.
No swimming without adult supervision.
Age Risk Factors

Water safety is different for each child dependent upon the age of the child, level of water competency, and access to water sources. It’s important for parents to understand that the risk of drowning varies by age. Children are to be supervised by a responsible adult within reach distance at all times when near water sources. When necessary, either hire a lifeguard or designate water watchers to sit and watch children during water activities. Responsible adults should keep a fully charged phone nearby in a safe place, take turns supervising every 20 minutes, and also be aware of the exact location, in case of an emergency. It's also recommended that adults also remember to not swim alone.

Recreational flotation devices are not be used as life preservers and require an adult to be next to the child. Only appropriately sized Coast Guard-approved life jackets are to be used as safe flotation devices yet should not provide a false sense of safety.

Infants - One of the greatest threats to babies would be bathtubs, considering that it only takes two inches of water for drowning to occur. 

Toddlers - Curiosity and a diminished sense of fear are largely the reason toddlers are at greater risk near backyard pools and larger bodies of water. 

School-Aged Children - This age group is more at risk in more open water environments such as lakes and beaches and would benefit from the additional layer of protection of using the buddy system to partner up during water activities.

Layers of Protection

According to Blake Collingsworth, when he and his wife lost their son, Joshua, they thought they were doing everything right with pool coverings and a security camera system in place. “We ended up being one of the statistics among the leading cause of death to children ages one to four in the time it takes to prepare a hot dog,” he said. The Collingsworth family has since become advocates for teaching children water competency and basic survival skills.

Create a water protection plan based upon the recommended five layers of protection to prevent drowning, including-
- Barriers and Fencing
- Close, Constant and Capable Adult Supervision
- Water Competency
- Life Jackets
- Emergency Preparedness, including CPR with Rescue Breaths

Common Drowning Myths

“Each drowning is different and given the many ways and environments where drownings can occur, the issue is
most certainly a complex one,” explains Katchmarchi. “What’s most important for parents to know however, is that
drowning is preventable. But there is still a lot of work to be done to reverse some of the long-standing myths and
misperceptions associated with drowning.” Specifically, the panel discussed the following-

Myth- Drownings are rare, It can’t happen to our family.

Truth- The number one thing NDPA hears from parents who have lost a child to drowning are the words, “I didn’t know” – they didn’t know the statistics, didn’t know the safety steps to take. Added Katchmarchi, “If a parent doesn't understand and perceive the true risk that drowning presents to their families, they can’t be expected to know how to take
the right safety steps, including how to prioritize things like barriers, swim lessons, life jackets and supervision.”

Myth- Drownings usually happens only during swim time.

Truth- In fact, 70% of toddler drownings occur during non-
swim times when a child is not expected to be around the water. “This is why we emphasize the use of barriers and fencing as the first layer of protection,” said Dr. Hoffman. “The use of barriers and fencing can decrease the risk of drowning by as much as 50%.

Myth- I can wait until my child is older to enroll in swim lessons. 

Truth- According to pediatricians and water safety advocates alike, there is a distinction between recreational swimming lessons and water competency, which can be started at a young age. According to Blake Collingsworth, “The basic skill of learning how to flip and float is lifesaving and can be taught to a child as young as one. By teaching children what to do if they fall into the water, how to float and get air, and reach for the side of the pool, we can help avoid having an accident turn into a tragedy.”

Myth- In the event of a drowning, we’ll see and hear distress signs.

Truth- Drowning can occur in as little as 20 to 60 seconds,
and as Katchmarchi pointed out, “A distressed swimmer that is still able to call out and keep their head above water, is not a drowning victim. Thanks to Hollywood and the movies, many parents have been trained to think that drowning is a loud and pronounced event, and that if their child is in trouble in the water, they will be able to hear them and spring into action. But that is simply not the case, which is why
close, constant and capable adult supervision any and all times a child is in or near water is so important,
even if there is a lifeguard present.”

About NDPA 

The mission of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance is: “Elevating Awareness to Educate, Advocate, Innovate, and Equip to Prevent Drownings.” We believe that as a united alliance we can save lives by preventing the tragedy of drowning. Join us to help save lives!

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