Staying Safe – In and Around Water
Per the CDC, about eleven people die from unintentional drowning every day. Of these, two will be children aged 14 or younger. Drowning kills nearly 4,000 people each year in the United States. After birth defects, drowning is the number one cause of death for children ages 1 to 4 years, and the second leading cause of unintentional injury death for children ages 1 to 14 years.
Before your family heads out to the water, make sure you are prepared to practice water safety by using these safety tips:
Wearing a Life Jacket and Picking an Infant Appropriate Life Jackets
- Life jackets reduce the risk of drowning while boating for people of all ages and swimming abilities. Always have your children wear a life jacket approved by the U.S. Coast Guard while in or around natural water.
- Make sure the life jacket fits snugly. Have kids make a "touchdown" signal by raising both arms straight up; if the life jacket hits a child's chin or ears, it may be too big or the straps may be too loose.
- According to the U.S. Coast Guard's Office of Boating Safety, babies should not travel on a boat — including rowboats, kayaks, motorboats, and sailboats — until they are at the appropriate weight to wear an approved personal flotation device (PFD). Here's some more information on how to choose the right life jacket.
Keep Little Kids Warm
- Infants and young kids are at a higher risk for hypothermia, so if you are taking a baby on a boat, just take a few extra precautions to keep your baby warm. If your children seem cold or are shivering, wrap them tightly in a dry blanket or towel.
Don't Rely on Swimming Aids
- Remember that swimming aids such as water wings or noodles are fun toys for kids, but they should never be used in place of a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device (PFD).
Childproof Your Boat and Develop Some Basic Rules
- Explain some basic boat rules and ensure everyone follow them. Children should understand and follow rules such as keeping their hands and feet inside the boat at all times and not running on a boat.
Use Your Best Judgment
- A large portion of boating accidents that occur each year involve alcohol consumption by both boat operators and passengers. To protect your safety and loved ones around you, it is strongly recommended not to drink alcoholic beverages while boating.
- Learn CPR! Your CPR skills could save someone's life in the time it takes for paramedics to arrive on the scene. These skills will give you tremendous peace of mind – and the more peace of mind you have as a parent, the better. Many organizations like the American Red Cross and American Heart Association offer CPR training courses, both online and in-person.
Know the Risks of Natural Waters
- Teach children that swimming in open water is not the same as swimming in a pool: They need to be aware of uneven surfaces, river currents, and ocean undertow.
- Make sure kids swim only in areas designated for swimming.
- Since you never know how deep the water is or what might be hidden under the surface, children should never dive into oceans, rivers, or lakes.
- Educate kids on the danger of weather while swimming. Local weather conditions can change quickly and cause dangerous flash floods, strong winds and thunderstorms with lightning strikes.
Actively Supervise Kids in and around Open Water
- Every child is different, so enroll your child in swimming lessons when you feel he or she is ready. Teach children how to tread water, float and stay by the shore. While formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning, all children still need close and constant supervision while in or around water.
- Actively supervise children in and around open bodies of water, giving them your undivided attention. Adults should not be distracted with activities such as reading, using the phone, or consuming alcohol or drugs. Drowning happens in seconds and is often silent, so your attention is necessary.
- Whenever infants or toddlers are in or around water, an adult should be within arm’s reach to provide active supervision. This is called "touch supervision". If children are near water, then they should be the only thing on your mind. Small children can drown in as little as one inch of water.
- When there are several adults present and children are swimming, designate an adult as the “Water Watcher” for a certain amount of time (such as 15-minute periods) to prevent lapses in supervision.
If you have questions or find yourself in need of resources, contact St. Luke’s Children’s Injury Prevention at (208) 381-1719.