The warm weather and summer is upon us. But unfortunately so is the risk that water can hold for our small children. As New Zealanders we typically flock to the beach, the boat, lakes and rivers with our families. Sadly we have staggering drowning rates…
Pools, lakes, ponds and beaches are cool relief from hot weather. But water also can be a dangerous play area for children if you don't take the proper precautions. Most drownings occur in home swimming pools.
Children need constant supervision around water including the bath, wading pools, fish ponds, swimming pools, spas, beach, or lakes. Young children are especially vulnerable as they can drown in less than 6 centimetres of water. That means drowning can happen where you'd least expect it in the sink, the toilet bowl, fountains, buckets, inflatable pools, or small bodies of standing water around your home, such as stream boundaries and ditches filled with rainwater.
All children need to be supervised in the water, no matter what their swimming skill levels. Infants, toddlers, and weak swimmers should have an adult swimmer within arm's reach to provide "touch supervision."
Fitted life jackets are a worthwhile invest for children under 5. Choose a jacket with a strap between the legs and head support, the collar will keep the child's head up and face out of the water. Inflatable vests and arm devices such as water wings are not effective protection against drowning.
It's important to teach children proper pool and spa behaviour from a young age and to make sure that you take the right precautions. Supervise children at all times. Don't assume that just because your child took swimming lessons or is using a flotation device that there's no drowning risk.
Teach children to never swim alone. Using a buddy system means there's always someone looking out for you. Make sure children understand that swimming in a pool is different from swimming in a lake, river or the ocean; there are different hazards for each.
When at the beach, river or lake foot protection like aqua shoes are great to protect feet from sharp stones, glass and hot sand and a great alternative to jandals that can fall off. They are great for getting in and out of a boat because of the grip soles.
Infants are particularly susceptible to diseases that can be transmitted in water. After introducing an infant to a pool, dry the child's ears carefully with a towel or cotton ball to help prevent swimmer's ear and wash your baby with a mild soap and shampoo the hair to remove pool chemicals.
Always double check and secure pool gates, spa pool lids and locks. Never leave toys in a pool as children may be tempted to reach to get them. Have a mobile phone at the pool, beach, lake on the boat etc in case of an emergency.
Fundamental rules you can teach children from very little is to walk instead of running near water and to never swim alone, but adult supervision around any water is the key to maintaining a safe environment for children with water.
Water play can be a great source of fun and exercise. You'll enjoy the water experience more by knowing and practicing the safety precautions noted.