Pool safety tips for when the grandkids come for a swim
(Editor’s Note: Barb Granatelli is an Edgewater resident, water aerobic instructor, and previously certified lifeguard.)
Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death to children ages one to 14. For every child who drowns, four more are hospitalized for nearly drowning. Sixty-one percent of all childhood drowning deaths that occur among the one-to-14 age group occur among children ages four and under. And past studies have found male children have a drowning rate two to four times that of female children.
Now that we have your attention, let’s talk about pool safety and specifically what you can do about it.
Before you and/or your child or grandchild get in the pool, you should first take a few minutes to talk about “Pool Rules.” Your emphasis should be on the rules that affect safety. Let them tell you some rules. Hopefully they will recite rules such as: no Running, no eating or chewing gum, no backward jumping or somersaults, no jumping off the pool ladder, no swinging or hanging from the pool handrails.
Next, ask them to give you the reason for each rule. No running = might fall and get hurt or slip on wet floor, no eating = choking hazard, no backward jumps = might jump on someone or hit head or chin on edge of pool, no jumping off pool ladder = might slip on step and fall behind the ladder steps, no swinging or hanging on rails = slippery when wet, might fall. Use your imagination and bring the explanations to their level of understanding. Rules are not meant to take away the fun from a pool visit. They are meant to keep everyone safe and considerate of others’ enjoyment.
Never let your grandchild enter the pool until you say “OK.” This is a hard lesson for a restless 3-year-old but an important one for them to obey. You don’t want them in the water until 100 percent of your attention is on them.
Parents and grandparents frequently over-estimate their child’s swimming ability. For many children, the only time they see a pool is during the summer months between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Those not participating in pool activities during other months most likely will forget what was learned the previous summer. Proceed cautiously, especially at the beginning of the outdoor pool season. Remember, you are the one who is watching your child 100 percent of the time. Your eyes are on them at all times. Don’t get distracted. It just takes a second or two for a child to get into trouble – choking on water, getting bumped by another, getting a cramp.
There are a number of specific things the adult should do at the pool.
Enforce hourly pool breaks. Children do not do a good job of monitoring their fatigue level.
Have the child drink water during that pool break. It’s easy to forget that we need to hydrate ourselves when we are surrounded by water. Discourage any drinking of pool water. The chemicals in the pool are quite different from drinking water and might cause a tummy-ache.
Use the “Reach Supervision” rule. An adult is always within reaching distance of a child. That usually means the adult needs to be in the pool with the child. There should be at least one adult in a bathing suit who is supervising that child.
If you’re dealing with an older, larger child or an adult, follow the “Reach, Throw, Don’t Go” guideline. Reach with a noodle, towel, pole, ring buoy toward the distressed swimmer. Throw a ring buoy, noodle, kickboard, anything that floats. The “Don’t Go” rule is especially important for a younger child to follow. Even if they are willing to help their older sibling who suddenly got a cramp or is choking on swallowed water, emphasize the importance of not going after the distressed swimmer but instead getting an adult to help. Never put yourself in jeopardy when trying to help someone in the pool. A distressed swimmer will likely pull you under. Then who will help the two of you?
All it takes is a sudden cramp, swallowed water, or a bump from a fellow pool user for someone to get into trouble. Distressed swimmers usually don’t yell for help. That’s why our eyes should be on each other to make our pool visit a safe and happy one.