PODCAST: Keep swimming kids safe with a ‘water watcher’

Mary Schuermann Kuhlman

(OHIO NEWS CONNECTION) – With the unofficial start to summer, pools around Ohio are opening this Memorial Day weekend, and when it comes to swim time, experts encourage parents to become “water watchers.”

Drowning is the top unintentional cause of death for children ages one to four, and the second-leading cause among kids ages five to 14.

Dawne Gardner, senior injury prevention specialist for Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, pointed out 70% of drowning deaths occur between May and August. She said the most important pool safety measure is to ensure an adult is actively watching children at all times.

“If there are multiple adults around the pool, take 15-minute shifts so that adult knows: no phone, no book, no conversations; they are keeping an eye on all the children,” Gardner recommended. “That is their time, and that is their only job while they’re there.”

With infants and toddlers, an adult should be in the water within arm’s reach. Most drownings involving kids under age four happen at home pools, so experts encourage the use of alarms and secure pool fences to keep curious little ones away.

Gardner noted while a drowning is traumatic, it does not always look dramatic.

“Parents always think that there’s a lot of splashing and yelling when a child is drowning, and that is not the case,” Gardner explained. “It is not a loud event. It is very silent. It happens quickly.”

Gardner also encouraged swimming lessons for children as soon as they are developmentally ready.

“Just so that they are comfortable around water, they respect the water, and they have those basic swimming skills,” Gardner emphasized. “We would like for parents, or at least one of the adults around, to know CPR. It’s just a great tool that could be helpful.”

There has been a roughly 38% drop in drowning deaths over the past two decades, which experts attribute to greater awareness and education about prevention and water safety.

Reporting by Ohio News Connection in association with Media in the Public Interest and funded in part by the George Gund Foundation.

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