Summer is officially here and for most kids, that means plenty of time spent playing in the water. Whether at the lake, on a boat or in a local swimming pool, there are plenty of things for parents to keep in mind when it comes to keeping their little ones safe.
Dr. Stephen O’Grady, a pediatrician at Mercy Clinic Primary Care in Ada, shares five important water safety tips to help parents make the most of their summer with their little ones.
Children should never be left alone in or near a body of water for any length of time. Parents or guardians should always remain within an arm’s reach of young children while in the water, especially those under the age of 5.
At a beach, stay within the designated swimming area and within the visibility of a lifeguard. Be aware of rip currents and remember to swim parallel to the shore until clear of the current.
Inflatable swimming aids such as floaties or water wings, inflatable toys, floating loungers and pool noodles can give parents and children a false sense of security. While it’s OK to use these floating toys, a parent or guardian should always remain within arm’s reach. The only safe floating device is a well-fitting Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
When on a boat, children and adults should wear a life jacket at all times. A life jacket fits properly if you can’t lift it over your child’s head after he’s been fastened into it. For children under age 5, life vests should also contain a floatation collar to keep the head upright and the face out of the water.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the decision to enroll a child over age 1 in swimming lessons should be made by the parent based on the child’s developmental readiness and exposure to water. Regardless of ability, swimming lessons are not a way to prevent drowning in young children, and all toddlers and preschoolers still need a caregiver at their side in the water.
Kids of all ages can grow tired while swimming. Encourage short breaks every hour to rest and drink fluids to avoid dehydration. It’s also a great time to reapply sunscreen if necessary.
In the event that you need to rescue a distressed swimmer, conducting CPR while you wait for an ambulance could save their life. Mercy Hospital in Oklahoma City offers a number of CPR classes each month, as does the American Red Cross.
Watch the weather
During the summer months, the weather can change quickly. Get out of the water and seek shelter if a storm approaches, even if it is just raining. Although rain itself doesn’t necessarily pose a safety risk for swimmers, thunder and lightning can develop quickly. Return to the water or beach only when you have not heard any thunder or seen lightning for at least 30 minutes. The National Lightning Safety Institute’s safety slogan reminds swimmers: “If you can see it, flee it. If you can hear it, clear it.”
Certain storms also have the potential to bring on strong winds, which can affect water conditions and currents in lakes and oceans. Additionally, excessive heat can contribute to dehydration and exhaustion, and children up to 4 years of age are at the greatest risk.
Stephen O’Grady M.D. is a pediatrician at Mercy Clinic Pediatrics, located at 2020 Arlington St., Suite 2 in Ada. To make an appointment, call (580) 436-1506.