I received the second notification this year on my phone that a child had drowned in a pool yesterday. It sends chills all over my body-which is why I am addressing it here.
-What does drowning look like (From Reader’s Digest).
1. They can’t call for help—she has to be able to breathe before she can speak. When a person is drowning, her mouth sinks below and reappears above the surface of the water. There isn’t time for her to exhale, inhale, and call out.
2. They can’t wave for help either. A drowning person instinctively extends her arms to the sides and presses down to lift her mouth out of the water; a child may extend her arms forward. She can’t use her arms to move toward a rescuer or reach for rescue equipment.
3. They remain upright in the water, with no evidence of kicking. She can struggle for only 20 to 60 seconds before going under.
4. Their eyes are glassy, unable to focus, or closed.
5. Their face may be hard to see; hair may be over forehead or eyes.
6. Their Head is low in the water, with mouth at water level; head may be tilted back with mouth open. A child’s head may fall forward.
7. They are quiet. Children playing in the water make noise. When they get quiet, you need to get to them and find out why.
8. They don’t seem in distress. Sometimes the most important indicator that someone is drowning is that she doesn’t look like she’s drowning. She may just seem to be looking up at the sky, shore, pool deck, or dock. Ask her, “Are you all right?” If she can answer at all, she probably is. If she returns a blank stare, you may have less than 30 seconds to get to her.
There are over 3,000 drownings per year in the US. 1 in 5 are children younger than fourteen. Over 3,000 children per year end up in the Emergency Department for submersion injuries.
Being in an area where pools are common-we need to address this issue more fervently. Here are some tips if you have a pool in your home (or a grandparents/friend’s home)
- Get alarms for your doors. Children can and will sneak out of doors in the house. Have a chime on each of your doors so that if anyone enters or leaves, a noise will sound. You can find some at Home Depot (or any other home improvement store) for under $20 per unit.
- Install a pool fence. They may not be the most aesthetically pleasing item in your home, but they are proven to work and keep your kids safe. The mesh is thin enough so you can see through it easily and enjoy your pool. I have seen these in action and they are really strong and durable.
- Surface Motion Alarms-Will alarm if there is motion in the pool. There are pluses and minuses with these sensors, especially if you have wild animals near your home that may jump in, or your child isn’t large enough to displace enough water to make a wave.
Community/public pool safety/other people’s homes
- If you are in charge of watching a child near the pool or in the pool, you should not have distractions. Easier said than done, I know. But, put the phone away, the book, and especially the alcohol. Alcohol diminishes your reaction and dulls your senses.
- Know who is watching the kids. This is the scariest part of the drowning equation. Parents, guardians, friends all assume that someone else is watching else is watching the child and all of a sudden, no one knows where the child is and they are underwater. I have witnessed this a few times. My husband and I tag team our children in the pool. We actually have hand signals that we give each other if one of us takes over watching two versus one child. We also constantly scan the pool watching out for other children as well as our own. So, if you ever come across our family in the pool and we aren’t very chatty, don’t think we are the world’s hugest jerks-we just are very wary and watchful because we have both pulled children out of our community pool.
- Be wary of those flotation devices (water wings, tubes, floaties for babies). They are not meant to save a child. Little ones can flip out of them and get entangled in them very easily.
Teach your children how to swim!
- For babies and little ones under 6, ISR (Infant Swimming Resource) lessons focus on teaching children to roll onto their back, float and rest and breath until help arrives. Older children are taught to get to the edge of the pool to crawl out or wait to be helped.
- Surprise Swim Lessons (or you can look up your City’s Parks and Recreation Page). 6 months-adult during the spring, summer and fall season!
- Aqua Tots A great indoor alternative to swim lessons =both group and private
I didn’t really get a good grasp at learning how to swim until I was 12 years old, and then I had a friend who convinced me I should join the swim team. I was on our high school team for two years and improved on my swimming ability. We had a pool in our high school, and I actually used one of my study halls my sophomore year in high school to teach 8th graders how to swim. I have also taught my oldest to swim and am working on getting my other two to swim as well.
Pool and water safety is so very important. Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death of children ages 1-4 in Arizona, so please remind your family and friends to be safe around the water and to never assume that someone else is watching over your child around the water!