Water Safety for Children

We briefly touched on water safety in our blog: Tips for Fun in the Sun but with summer approaching, we felt it important to dive a little deeper into the topic.

How do you keep your children safe in and around water?

There are a lot of options for water play and enjoyment from local lakes to the coast. Let’s talk about some of these popular areas and how to enjoy them safely as a family. For all, the biggest factors are keeping a close eye on your children especially young ones who are unable swim or are not strong swimmers. And, wear the appropriate life vest or floaties for being in and around the water. Also, never swim alone – this goes for children and adults alike.

Swim lessons are also a must once your child is old enough. They are offered at the YMCA and other clubs – you can find many options for lessons online.

The Beach

beach, water safety, safe fun at the beach

First, know that swimming in the ocean is extremely different than swimming in a pool. In the ocean, you have to worry about waves, rip currents, and sea life. You should swim only at lifeguard-protected beaches, within the designated swimming area. Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards. Pay attention to signs that direct swimmers to safe and advise against unsafe areas. Keep up with local news so you know if water conditions are safe. For example, this summer the ever-popular Myrtle Beach area is under a no swim advisory due to high bacteria levels.

Rip currents are responsible for deaths on our nation’s beaches every year, and for most of the rescues performed by lifeguards. Rip currents can form in any large open water area, such as low spots and breaks in sandbars, or near structures such as jetties and piers. (source: http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/water-safety/beach-safety)

  • If you are caught in a rip current, stay calm and don’t fight it.
  • Swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current. Once you are free, turn and swim toward shore.
  • If you can’t swim to the shore, float or tread water until you are free of the rip current and then head toward shore.
  • If you feel you can’t make it to the shore, draw attention to yourself by waving and calling for help.
  • Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist near these structures.
  • If someone is in trouble in the water, get help from a lifeguard. If a lifeguard is not available, have someone call 9-1-1. Throw the victim something that floats – a lifejacket, cooler, inflatable ball and yell instructions on how to escape the current.
  • When at the beach, check conditions before entering the water. Check to see if any warning flags are up or ask a lifeguard about water conditions, beach conditions, or any potential hazards.

The Lake

There are several lakes in and around the Upstate from Lake Hartwell to Keowee to Lake Lure in NC and more! Whether you enjoy the water from the shore or a boat, it is important to once again, keep an eye on your children when they are near or in the water.

  • Before your child ever boards a boat you need to “childproof” it: stow everything that’s breakable or dangerous. Winches, windlasses, ropes, gear boxes, ground tackle and other topside equipment should be out of reach, battened or otherwise secured. Make sure all safety gear, such as EPIRBS, flares, and flare guns, are up out of a child’s reach — but never locked away — just in case you need them. And, areas where ropes and halyards are located should be off limits since it’s easy to trip or to get a foot or hand wrapped up or caught.
  • Invest in a good age-appropriate lifejacket or life vest.  Look for one with a collar that turns the child face up in the water, strong waist and crotch straps, and a handle on the collar. Take the child with you when you buy the lifejacket; it will help with sizing and it will get them involved.
  • Make sure there is an adult present! This is especially important if a teen is driving the boat. Also, it is important for the responsible adult to be sober.
  • Make sure kids swim only in areas designated for swimming.
  • DO NOT dive into lakes or rivers, because you never know how deep the water is or what might be hidden under the surface. Teach children how to tread water, float and stay by the shore.

Have a realistic approach to safety. They’re still the same kids you have at home, so expect the same behavior. Establish clear, enforceable rules and set boundaries for your kids. They need to be safe, but they also need to have a good time so that they will want to share this time at the lake with you in the future.

Water Parks

Water park safety is a partnership between parents and parks. Parents should not rely solely on the parks to keep their children safe but be vigilant and use common sense so that everyone can enjoy their time.

  • Children under 48″, non-swimmers, and weak swimmers should wear a Coast Guard approved life vest. Bring you own if possible but some parks do offer some for rent. You can search online or call for more information on their availability.
  • Be prepared and dress appropriately. Know the rules for shoes and strollers, bring layers and extra sunscreen.
  • Children in diapers should be dressed in waterproof swim diapers to minimize leakage. Change diapers only in designated changing areas and away from the water. Germs can be spread from objects around the pool.
  • Read the signs at every ride or slide and listen to all audio instructions and obey the rules.
  • Designate a meeting place in the instance someone is separated from your party or gets lost.  Use the buddy system.
  • Do not swim if you have diarrhea. This is especially important for children in diapers.
  • Do not swallow the pool water. Try to avoid getting water in your mouth at all.
  • Practice good hygiene and shower before swimming. Wash your hands thoroughly after using the toilet, eating or changing diapers.
  • Take your children to the bathroom often throughout the day to prevent any accidents that may spoil the fun.

The Pool

fun in the pool, water safety

An adult, that knows how to swim, should actively watch children at all times while they are in a pool. For infants and toddlers, an adult should be in the water and within arm’s reach, providing “touch supervision.”  Touch supervision means that the adult can literally touch the child at all times. For older children, an adult should be paying constant attention and free from distractions, like talking on the phone, socializing, or drinking alcohol.

The AAP recommends that every child over the age of 4 have swim lessons but all children are different – use your best judgment for your kids.

Some basic safety tips are:

We hope that you all are able to get outside, swim and play in the water this spring and summer. Swimming is a fabulous exercise and fun activity for the whole family. Please use your common sense and caution so that you and your children may enjoy the water safely.