New Information Released from AAP on Water Safety for Children

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The Memorial Day weekend is coming, and AAA has projected that the number of Americans traveling over the holiday weekend will increase 5.4% over last year. Many will likely take advantage of the warmer, sunny weather and head to a location with water and swimming activities. The American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents to review their updated recommendations regarding water safety and drowning prevention before heading out for summer fun.

The new policy statement and technical report is published online in the May 24th edition of Pediatrics. It includes a variety of precautionary measures, including installing safety equipment in and around pools, swimming lessons for children, and parental knowledge of CPR in case of emergency.

According to the report, drowning deaths of children and adolescents has decreased dramatically in recent years; however, it remains the second largest cause of death among US children between the ages of 1 and 19 years. Of all childhood drowning incidents, 32% occurred in pools with almost 300 deaths in children under the age of 5.

Read: Many Public Pools Unfit for Swimming

The authors suggest that all pools, including inflatable or portable pools, be surrounded by fences that are at least 4 feet high. From 2004 to 2006, 47 children died in incidents related to inflatable pools, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). These pools are often left filled for long periods of time instead of being drained between uses. The soft sides of some pools in particular pose a danger because children can lean on them and fall in headfirst.

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Other safety features to consider for pools include specialized drain covers, safety vacuum-release systems, and filter pumps with multiple drains to prevent children from becoming entrapped in pool drains. Pool and spa drains were responsible for at least 25 deaths between 1990 and 2004. These safety devices are now required by federal law in public pools.

Parents are also strongly encouraged to enroll children in swimming lessons. Originally, the AAP did not endorse swimming lessons for children younger than 4, but in the recent report, they have lowered the minimum age due to evidence that there may be some benefit to younger children learning to swim safely if they are physically and emotionally ready to learn. Currently, though, there is no evidence that infants under 12 months should receive swimming instruction or popular “water-survival skills” programs.

Read: Useful Summertime Safety Tips

Parents should also learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and water-rescue skills. Your local American Red Cross has courses in CPR, First Aid, Pool Maintenance and Safety.

For all of these safety tips, the top priority for parents is to keep children supervised around water at all times. That means "no eating, no drinking, no conversing with your friends, no working on your BlackBerry," says Chrissy Cianflone, director of programs for Safe Kids USA. Keep a charged cell phone handy to be able to call for emergency services quickly should an incident occur.

For more on water safety, the CPSC has launched a new pool safety campaign at www.poolsafety.gov.

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