If you're a parent gearing up for summer, you're probably prepared to ensure your children have a safe time swimming--you know to keep an eye on the kids, where to find safe swimming spots, the basic steps to take to prevent drowning and other safety precautions. But are your kids prepared?
"There are certain skills kids should know if they want to be strong, confident swimmers, and having those skills can help reduce the risk of drowning," says Karli Tedeschi, CPSTI, injury prevention coordinator and Safe Kids Sonoma County coordinator at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. "However, according to data from the American Red Cross, the majority of teens and kids aren't fully equipped with this basic safety knowledge."
Of the parents surveyed by the American Red Cross, 61 percent said their children did not know the five safety skills that make up "water competency." That makes swimming a risky proposition, especially when you consider that an average of 10 people die from drowning every day in the United States, and two of those 10 are children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Because summer is right around the corner--Tedeschi advises that you make sure your children have these five water competency skills and can perform them in the following order:
- Jump into or step into water that is higher than head level.
- Be able to resurface above the water and float or tread water for one minute.
- Make a full circle in the water to find an exit.
- Be able to swim up to 25 yards, if necessary, to reach the exit. (That's the standard length of a lap pool such as those found at gyms.)
- Safely get out of the water; in a pool, the swimmer should be able to exit without using a ladder.
"If children can't perform these skills, they should be enrolled in a swimming class, ideally before summer kicks off and you start taking trips to the pool or beach," Tedeschi says. "And if you will be the one responsible for your child's safety in the water--say, there's no lifeguard present or you are the adult in charge--you should know how to perform these skills as well, in case your child needs to be rescued."
In addition to her work at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, Karli Tedeschi sits on the County of Sonoma Water Safety Committee. Its signature program, started by the Red Cross over a decade ago, is Vamos a Nadar...Let’s Go Swimming, a bilingual swimming program for young children and their parents . Learn more about the program.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.