House Calls: Keep your eyes on children in or near water

By Aleen Huston July 28, 2011 05:38 pm

Editor’s note: House Calls runs every other Thursday. Today’s column is written by Aleen Huston, respiratory care practitioner and certified respiratory therapist.

Whether in the pool, the beach, the river, or even in your bathroom, water can be dangerous to your kids if you don’t take the right precautions.

Drowning can happen any time of year, but parents need to be particularly vigilant during summer months, when the number of drownings increases. 

Recently a local man drowned  after attempting to save his son from the strong currents of the Smith River. When it hits close to home, it makes it very important to keep water safety in mind at all times.

Drowning is one of the leading causes of death for young children. According to the CDC, each year, more than 830 children ages of 14 and under drown in pools, spas, rivers, beaches, and inside the home in the bathtub or a bucket of water.

According to a national survey, 90 percent of parents say they supervise their children while swimming, but many acknowledge that they engage in other distracting activities at the same time — talking, eating, reading or taking care of another child.

“A child in or near water can get into trouble in a matter of seconds,” said Meri-K Appy, president of Safe Kids USA. The organization promotes “Lock, Look, and Learn,” to help remind parents and caregivers to keep children safe. These protections include using barriers, fences, actively supervising children, learning how to swim and enrolling them in swimming lessons, and knowing basic CPR skills.

Here are some tips, provided by Safe Kids, on how to keep kids safe around the water:

• Always actively supervise children in and around water. Designate someone to be the “water watcher,” a responsible adult who is not distracted by phone calls, text messages, reading or talking to others.

• Watch children even if they know how to swim — that knowledge does not prevent drowning.

• If a child is missing, check the water first.

• Know how to swim and enroll your kids in swimming lessons.

• Learn CPR and know how to use rescue equipment — these are important skills to know if there is an emergency.

• Learn how to choose the right life jacket depending on the water activity, your child’s size, and weight. Don’t rely on inflatable swimming toys such as “water wings” and noodles; these toys should never be used in place of U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets. Children who can’t swim well should be within your arm’s reach.

• Teach children water safety rules such as never swim alone, always wear a life jacket while boating, and never swim or play near pool or spa drains.

• If you have a pool or spa, or if your child visits a home that has a pool or spa, it should be surrounded on all four sides by a fence at least 4-feet high with self-closing and self-latching gates.

• Make sure all pools and spas have compliant anti-entrapment drain covers and back-up devices to ensure safer places for children to swim.

• When not in use, all pools, including portable inflatable pools and spas, should be covered and secured. Ladders to above ground pools and spas should be locked or removed.

For more tips and information, please visit

Email suggestions for future House Calls columns to Beth Liles at Sutter Coast Hospital, This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it