If your kids have been to a pool, lake, river or ocean this summer (if they havenâ€™t, what are you waiting for?!) youâ€™ve likely given thought to the best ways to keep them safe and sound (if not safe and dry) while swimming. Because according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the leading cause of injury and death for children aged one to four. So when should your kids learn to swim? Apparently, the lessons need to begin early â€” much earlier than most of us may have thought. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children should start swimming around the age of one.
If youâ€™re a toddler parent whoâ€™s now staring wide-eyed and guiltily at your screen, youâ€™re not alone. After all, one is super young â€” especially when you consider that, at that age, many children are still learning to stand and walk â€” but starting swimming lessons early can reduce a childâ€™s risk of drowning, not only in pools or oceans but bathtubs, buckets and any free-standing body of water.
â€œResearch has found that swim lessons are beneficial for childrenâ€¦ and may lower drowning ratesâ€, Linda Quan, MD, FAAP, a co-author of the policy statement, said.
The AAP also advises parents and caregivers to never leave children alone in or near water, they suggest adults empty all containers which are not in use, and they encourage supervision, even of older children and with better swimmers. Water Safety Magazineâ€˜s Jenelle Lockard also suggests parents educate themselves about floats/flotation devices, as water wings can be dangerous.
â€œBecause water wings are used on the upper arms, they prevent a child from using the correct swimming stroke or motion to move themselves through the water,â€ Lockard explains in her column, Just Add Water. â€œPlus, if a child raises their arms above their head, their head can sink down below the waterâ€™s surface, causing panic andâ€¦ drowning if not watched.â€
Here’s an idea! Pick one of the seven #SimpleSafetySteps to review with your family on each day of the week, you can even discuss them around the dinner table! ?ï¸ https://t.co/hznMDiwY91 pic.twitter.com/Zgamsrit7l
â€” Pool Safely (@poolsafely) July 9, 2019
The recommendations come just months after reports confirmed 8,700 children younger than 20 years visited a hospital emergency department for a drowning event in 2017 â€” and 25 percent of those were hospitalized or transferred for further care. The AAP hopes additional training will help prevent swim-related accidents and deaths.
â€œLearning to swim is a great family activity,â€ Quan said. â€œFamilies can talk with their pediatrician about whether their child is developmentally ready for swim lessons, and then look for a program that has experienced, well-trained instructors. Ideally, programs should teach â€˜water competencyâ€™ too â€“ the ability to get out of the water if your child ends up in the water unexpectedly.â€
For more information about pool and water safety, visit PoolSafely, a national public education campaign designed to reduce childhood drownings, submersion injuries and entrapments.