After a challenging year, Montgomery County families are looking forward to returning to some “normal” summer activities in the coming months. Outings to the local pool? Check! Beach vacations with friends and family? Check! As families make their plans for summer fun, local swim and water safety experts are sharing a reminder to make water safety a part of those plans as well.
May is National Water Safety Awareness Month and this is a great time to review water safety basics. Sadly, childhood drownings have been on the rise as the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a formal warning of an increased threat in drownings due to implications brought on by the pandemic. According to Total Aquatics Programming data, the summer months (May-August) account for two-thirds of annual childhood drowning incidents. Due to restrictions brought on by the pandemic, many children have been out of swim lessons for some time.
So what do parents need to know when it comes to water safety?
First, The facts
Drowning is the leading cause of injury death to children ages one to four—and the second leading cause of injury death for children ages one to 14, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition to the drownings reported, many children also suffer other water-related injuries each summer. This is a topic that every family needs to be aware of.
What does drowning look like? What are the warning signs?
- Drowning happens quickly. A child can drown in as little as two inches of water and in as little time as 20 seconds.
- Often, adults are around when a child is drowning but they are unaware of what is happening.
- Drowning is almost always a deceptively quiet event. The waving, splashing, and yelling that we see on television is rarely seen in real life. You will not see screaming kids flailing their arms! Constant supervision is important so you notice a child whose face has gone underwater or is struggling. If they are taking on water, they WILL NOT be able to shout out for help.
- Look for these other signs of drowning when persons are in the water:
- Head low in the water, mouth at water level
- Head tilted back with mouth open
- Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
- Eyes closed
- Not using legs—vertical
- Hyperventilating or gasping
- Trying to roll over on the back
What do families need to know when it comes to being safer around the water?
- Enroll in Swim Lessons: As a result of the increased threat in childhood drownings, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids continue to safely participate in organized drowning prevention classes despite the COVID-19 health crisis, as swim lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by 88%. Lessons help increase muscle memory by practicing basic techniques for kids to use during a water emergency - such as the crab walk, properly getting in and out of the pool, going under water, rolling on their back, treading water, learning different strokes, etc.
- Never swim alone: While many of our young ones think they’re all grown up and don’t need a swim buddy, you can re-enforce this rule by explaining this rule goes for kids and adults alike. Teach your children to always have a buddy in the water – whether it be an adult or peer – at the beach, on vacation, or at home. Children can drown in as little as two inches of water, so if water is around, make sure someone else is, too.
- Wear a U.S. Coast Guard-Approved Life Jacket: Having a proper floatation device is one of the easiest ways to increase safety in the water – search for the United States Coast Guard approval on it. Pay attention to proper fit – the fit matters, because if your head or ears can slip down beneath the life jacket, the device won’t be able to work as designed to keep your head above water and allow for proper breathing. A U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket is especially important when swimming in lakes and oceans when water conditions can be uncertain and unpredictable.
- Designate a Water Guardian: Make sure to keep your eyes on your kids at all times – even if lifeguards are present. Kids are as curious as they come and are always willing to push the limits without knowing the true hazards. Designate an adult “Water Guardian” and be sure to change guardians every 30 minutes so he/she is alert and refreshed. A Water Guardian’s sole responsibility needs to be keeping an eye on the swimmers. Vigilance is key – no chatting, no checking your phone, no distractions.
- Play it Cool and Follow the Rules: Sometimes when our little ones are in play-mode, rules fall by the wayside. Review rules together as a family before letting your kids loose to enjoy the water. Pay special attention to pool hours, and always schedule your swims when lifeguards are present, if possible.
Take the Safer Swimmer Pledge with your Family!
Goldfish Swim School has launched a ‘Safer Swimmer Pledge’ campaign to bring greater awareness to water safety and drowning prevention. Throughout the month of May, families are encouraged to take the pledge and promote the importance of parent-child conversations around water safety. By visiting the Safer Swimmer Pledge landing page, families can sign to join the cause in promoting and prioritizing water safety, while also accessing at-home water safety tools and activities and reviewing “water safety whys” - families first-hand experiences and testimonials on how water safety has made an impact in their lives. Those who take the pledge will be entered to win one year of free swim lessons at Goldfish Swim School. Additionally, for each pledge, Goldfish Swim School will donate $1 to the USA Swimming Foundation, the philanthropic arm of USA Swimming, which supports swim lesson providers with resources, materials and grant funding to allow the opportunity for every child across the country to learn to swim. Once families have taken the pledge, they will also receive a promo code for 25% off any Speedo USA purchase with 10% of that purchase also donated to the USA Swimming Foundation.
Together, we can all have a safer summer 2021!
Goldfish Swim School Rockville and Goldfish Swim School Gaithersburg provide swim instruction to children ages 4 months to 12 years in a family-friendly setting with highly trained instructors, small class sizes, shiver-free 90-degree pools. Visit the website for more information: goldfishswimschool.com.