It’s a warm summer day. You’re at the beach with your kids. Your cell phone rings and you answer it. Your focus shifts from your kids to the conversation. Stop!
Children can get into trouble in a matter of seconds around water. In fact, drowning is a leading cause of unintentional death for children of all ages. And, more people drown in May and June than any other time of the year.
“Kids drown quickly and quietly,” said Shawneri Guzman, Coordinator of Safe Kids Snohomish County. “A drowning child can’t cry or shout for help. The most important precaution for parents is active supervision. Simply being near your child isn’t necessarily supervising,” said Guzman.
Even a near-drowning incident can have lifelong consequences. Kids who survive a near-drowning may sustain life-altering brain damage. After just a few minutes under water, damage is usually irreversible. Although 90 percent of parents say they supervise their children while swimming, many acknowledge they engage in other distracting activities at the same time – talking, eating, reading or taking care of another child.
Tips to help keep kids safe near water
To help keep kids safe this water season, follow these precautions:
- Actively supervise children at all times. Don’t leave, even for a moment. Stay where you can see, hear and reach kids in water. Avoid talking on the phone, preparing a meal, reading and other distractions.
- Always use a Coast Guard approved life jacket if you’re in a boat or the water. Make sure the life jacket fits properly and is rated for your child’s weight. It must fit snugly. When arms are lifted, the life jacket should not lift up to the chin. All jacket straps, zippers and ties must be fastened.
- Enroll your kids in swimming lessons after age 1. But, even then, don’t assume your child is immune to drowning. There is no substitute for active supervision. Even the strongest swimmer can drown.
- Don’t rely on inflatable swimming toys like water wings, swim noodles or inner tubes.
- Water is cold this time of year. The outside temperature might be in the 70s, but the water may be 40 degrees or less. Cold water leads to hypothermia, where the body’s core temperature drops, which can lead to death. Cold water also reduces blood flow to the hands and feet, limiting a person’s ability to self-rescue.
- Rivers are unpredictable. Take extra caution or avoid these dangerous waters entirely.
- Call 911 immediately if you need help. Know your location. Start CPR.