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Water safety is a must, especially during the summer months, the time for you and your family and friends to flock to pools, swimming holes and water parks for smiles and fun.

Kids and teens are most eager for summertime water activities, but they’re also most at risk of drowning, a leading cause of unintentional injury death among children 1 to 14 years old. Surviving drowning victims can suffer brain damage causing memory problems, learning disabilities or permanent loss of basic functioning.

To help you and your family stay safe in and around water, LifeBridge Health offers these tips:

Keeping a close eye on the little ones

Toddlers are more at risk of drowning than any other population, and not just as it relates to pool drownings.

“Toddlers most often drown when they reach a body of water unsupervised. Because they are elusive and quick, this happens more often than parents would like,” says Scott Krugman, vice chair of the Department of Pediatrics at The Herman & Walter Samuelson Children’s Hospital at Sinai. “Toddlers can drown in bathtubs, pails, pools, hot tubs and even toilets – anywhere where there is more than a few inches of water.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that drowning kills more young children ages 1 to 4 than anything else except birth defects.

If you’re a parent or guardian of a little one, you can help prevent toddler drowning by:

  • Putting a fence around your home pool (at least 48 inches high)
  • Installing a pool alarm to alert you in in the event your child breaches the fence and falls into the pool
  • Never leaving your child unsupervised near water (always have a designated “water watcher” who isn’t distracted)
  • Using life jackets until your child can safely swim

As a parent, you should also consider starting swim lessons as early as age 1 (a new recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics) so your child can learn how to float and be comfortable in water, Krugman says. Additionally, CPR lessons for parents are strongly recommended. “An immediate response with effective CPR is a key part of the drowning chain of survival,” Krugman says.

Swimming risks for teens

After toddlers, Krugman says, teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19 have the second highest risk of drowning, mainly because they overestimate their skills and underestimate the risks of impulsive behaviors like jumping off cliffs or rocks into water, as well as substance abuse.

Supervision is ideal even for teenagers. In addition to learning how to swim, teens should be encouraged to never drink and swim and choose natural bodies of water—especially rivers—carefully.

Children with special healthcare needs

If you have a child with autism, epilepsy or arrhythmia, they require extra supervision around pools and other bodies of water.

Children with autism frequently wander off and require close supervision. You should take careful precautions if your child has epilepsy. “If their seizures aren’t well controlled, you should have a discussion with their neurologist before allowing them to swim,” Krugman says.

The risk for a child with heart rhythm problems is that exertion from swimming can increase the likelihood of an arrhythmia. It is always important to speak with your child’s cardiologist to get clearance before participating in vigorous exercises.

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