Safeguard Your Child’s Summer

I don’t know about you, but all of our children are water babies! They are fascinated with water. They love to swim, splash, play, and float. They can spend hours upon hours outside if there is simply a body of water to play in. My husband and I have 8 children, as you know, ranging from 5 months to 12 years old, so we have always been big on teaching water safety to our littles. Whether we are at our land and they are playing in the creek, we are boating, or if we are in the calm waters of the Gulf to the crazy surf in Ponte Vedra in the Atlantic we have instilled in them what it takes to keep themselves safe and how to help us keep them safe. I want to show you how to keep every body of water from a puddle to your bathtub to a pool to the ocean safe for your family. 

I hate to talk about the next statistics I am about to bring up because my mommy anxiety can hardly handle it, but if I can help one family avoid a tragic accident, that will most definitely be worth the worry I will experience from researching all of this. Almost 800 children in the US drown every year. The most recent data from the CDC states that there are at least 10 child drownings per day. 2/3 of these deaths occur May-August.

Ages 1 and under are at risk most around buckets, bathtubs, and even toilets 1-4 year olds are more likely to drown in a pool, hot tub, or spa (make sure these things have at least a 4 foot high fence with a lock gate around them for safety), but 5-17 year olds are more likely to drown in natural water like lakes and rivers. 

The first thing we implemented was teaching our children never to swim alone and they are not to get in any water unless we are present. This led to a few temper tantrums from our more outspoken children because we were “taking too long” for their impatient little selves, but it is worth it. Do not let yourself be swayed on this rule. Our older children use the buddy system while still staying close to an adult, and we are the buddy for the younger children. Always, always, always stay close to the little ones. They can easily get knocked down by small waves in the ocean, waves made by boaters, or even waves from older kids splashing in a pool quicker than you can blink an eye. Children have drowned in only a few feet of water because they were unable to get up after falling down. Once your child has learned to swim long distances and float on their back, they won’t necessarily need you right next to them, but you should always keep them in sight, no matter how old they are. Kids of all ages can get stuck underwater, grow tired, or become panicked.

Be sure the area is well-supervised before you or your children enter the water. A lifeguard is preferable, but there have been several places we have been that do not have a lifeguard. With that being said, my biggest stressor when going anywhere is the fact that if there is a lifeguard present parents get distracted in conversation, on their phones, or snoozing in the sun. First of all, we are not the same. Again, I have too much anxiety for this to even be possible. I am constantly scanning and counting my kids. But more than half of parents surveyed believe that if a life guard is present they are primarily responsible for their child’s supervision at a pool, but a lifeguards job is only to enforce rules, scan, rescue, and resuscitate. Never assume someone else is watching your child. 

1 out of 3 parents have left their child or children alone in a pool for two minutes or more, but drownings happen fast – usually less than 30 seconds. Don’t assume you’ll hear your child yelling or splashing if he needs help. That is just something you see in the movies. In real life, most kids and adults drown quietly and quickly. Once a child begins to struggle, you usually have less than a minute to react. 

Sign your children up for swim lessons. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all children ages 4 and older take swimming lessons. But don’t let lessons give you a false sense of security. 60% of parents surveyed said they would not worry about their children as much if they had swim lessons, but while swim lessons are essential, a review of children who drowned in a pool revealed that 47% of children 10-17 reportedly knew how to swim. Check out places like your neighborhood pool, YMCA, Red Cross, or your local rec department for classes taught by a qualified instructor or go online to search for classes. Younger children can also benefit from lessons. They won’t learn to swim, but they can begin to learn about water safety and it will help them to be comfortable in the water when it is time. Also parents, it is a great idea to take CPR classes and learn basic rescue skills. This saves lives on land and around water. 

Next I want to talk about wearing the appropriate gear. We all know the importance of life jackets. Many public pools and water parks provide life jackets for you to use. Insist on a life jacket if your child is not a confident swimmer even if you have strong willed kiddos like I do. Everyone needs a lifejacket when boating or kayaking also. Skip the flip flops and look for sandals with a heel strap or a full coverage slip on water shoe that will stay in place both in and out of the water. These come in handy when we play in the creek, the lake, or hike the trails by the waterfalls. But this is what really got me thinking about this entire post and that is the bathing suits! I never thought about it before, but when buying bathing suits, know what colors create the most visibility in the environment. In the first image below they tested the colors and here are their findings: They placed each color on the surface (first row images), second row images were from shore level perspective, and third row are from a slightly elevated perspective simulating standing on a boat or dock. They conducted testing in 18” of water. Visibility was pretty much zero at 2 feet for all colors in this environment. The lake bottom was brown and it was partly sunny outside. In the second image, they tested colors with a light color pool bottom. The top photo in each section is the fabric underwater and the bottom photo shows the fabric under water with surface agitation.

In both tests these are the results. 

  • Top Colors: neon yellow/green/orange in lake and ocean settings
  • White appeared at times to be a light reflection or clouds on the surface and wouldn’t stand out
  • Blue blends too easily and is not a good color to choose in any setting
  • Neon Pink performed well in the pool but not in the lake and ocean
  • All other colors disappeared quickly even in 18” of water.

Remember, the bright and contrasting colors help visibility, but it doesn’t matter what color the kids are wearing if you are not supervising effectively and actively watching. Also take into account other factors in different environments such as water coloring, bottom coloring, visibility, water clarity, weather, surface activity, agitation, and currents.

Also, avoid bathing suits with ties or decorations that could get caught on something during water activities. 

If you are like me then you love swimming in water but you hate drinking it. I am doing good if I drink 16 ounces of plain water a day. Blech! But make sure that you and your children are staying hydrated. Swimming takes a lot of energy even though you don’t usually realize it, especially during the hot summer. Drink plenty of fluids and rest in a cool location. Water is always the best option. Caffeinated drinks can lead to dehydration. Dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke if you do not consume enough water. Remember too that too much sun is no fun. Limit exposure during peak hours which are 12pm-3pm and reapply waterproof sunscreen every 80 minutes. 

When going anywhere outdoors whether a natural body of water or a water park, plan ahead. We always pick a meeting spot that everyone can see and find easily in case anyone gets separated. Thankfully we have never had to test this, but better safe than sorry! Crowded parks and beaches can make it difficult for little ones to find you and you will be glad you have this safety measure in place. Read all posted signs with your kids before anyone jumps in too. Make sure your child meets any posted requirements. If you have questions about an attraction, ask a facility employee or lifeguard. Pay attention to beach flags and swimming safety signs and learn what they mean. Most beaches will have beach safety signs, flags, and cones placed to inform the public about beach and ocean conditions. My children love love love to read all about what the colorful flags mean! 

I always knew about rip currents and was thankful my dad taught me how to get out of one, but I did not know what an inshore hole was until today. Inshore holes are caused by large surf digging a hole in the shallow areas on the beach. They are dangerous for young children playing in the shallows. You will see the dark spot of water between the beach and the next lighter color of water or sand bar. People think this is a safer place to swim – GUILTY! – because the surf is smaller but in actuality rip currents will often pull out of an inshore hole and you or your child will be pulled out to sea before you are even aware of the danger. A rip current is a river of water heading out to sea. Teach your child what my dad taught me. If you find yourself getting pulled out to sea, stay calm. If you are on a surfboard or body board, stay on it. Our big kids always have a body board strapped to their wrist. Do not jump off/unhook and attempt to swim to shore. The graphic below shows how to safely get out of a rip current. Go over this graphic with your child. Teach them that when you are in a rip current and you are not able to make forward progress, swim or kick parallel to the shore at an angle until you are back on land. Always stay calm. Often “victims” are not drowning. They just need a little help. Also teach them to reach or throw. Don’t go! If you see someone struggling, get help. Even trained professionals like lifeguards and coast guard don’t enter the water without having the proper floatation devices to keep them safe.  

While I am on the subject of surfboards and body boards, teach your children that it is unsafe for swimmers and surfers to share the same spot in the ocean. I love it when we go to Ponte Vedra because there are always surfers. I could watch them all day long. But they cannot control where they go if they wipe out and that could put your little one at risk of getting hurt. And though we do use body boards, we do not use inflatables in the ocean or lake. Inflatables (including beach balls) are dangerous for several reasons. 

Inflatables can provide a false sense of security that causes people to go out farther in the water than they would without them. 

An inflatable can pop and put a swimmers life at risk if they are relying on it for floatation. 

It is really easy to get sucked out into a rip current when floating around. 

Floaties that you put on the arms of children can actually cause them to drown in the surf which is a horrible thing considering parents put those on their children to keep them safe. These were never intended to be life preservers.

Chasing after inflatables floating away is another way to put yourself at risk. It is more than likely that the inflatable is getting sucked out into a rip current. 

Teach the kids about tides. When we go to the Gulf we do not experience this but when we go to the Atlantic ocean we almost get our things washed away every time! With some exceptions that I won’t go into there are generally two low tides and two high tides every day. When you put your chairs/tents/bags/towels near the water line when the tide is coming up, it will get wet and may even be washed out to sea. If you place your stuff close to the water when the tide is going out, you should be fine unless you plan to stay all day or unless like I said you are staying on the Atlantic side of the panhandle!

This is another one I didn’t know but that always grossed me out for a reason I could not put a finger on until now! Keep those babies out of that “fresh water” that pools on the beach coming from the storm drain. Storm drains can be contaminated with toxic substances. Everything in the street eventually ends up traveling down storm drains into our ocean. Keep your kids as far away from these as possible even if you all have to find a different spot on the beach. And speaking of what to stay away from, rocks, jetties, and piers are a no no too. They often have rip currents pulling right next to them, you can get pushed into them causing serious injuries, and sometimes there are unexposed rocks or pilings just below the surface. These areas are usually marked with flags, signs, and even buoy lines to keep people out of danger. Teach your kids that when enjoying the ocean or lake they are not allowed to swim to a buoy or breakwater. Holding onto buoys and climbing onto breakwaters is not allowed. Another reason not to swim out to buoys and breakwaters is that these do not appear to be far away but are. Even strong swimmers become too tired to make it back to shore sometimes. Other dangers of swimming straight out are getting hit by passing boats or stuck in rip currents.

Know basic jellyfish and stingray first aid. Jellyfish stings are most often a minor injury. Numbing agents are often used to treat the pain of a bee sting while vinegar is used to neutralize a jellyfish sting. Yes, you can also urinate on a jellyfish sting to provide relief although vinegar sounds preferable. The danger of jellyfish stings, like bee stings, are when someone has an allergic reaction to the sting and goes into anaphylactic shock. This is a true life-threatening emergency. Often people who are allergic carry epi-pens and know how to use them to prevent this. 

Some people are unaware that they are allergic if they have never been stung. If you notice a sting victim having any trouble breathing, notify the coast guard, lifeguard, or call 911 immediately. 

Stingray injuries are more difficult to treat and often require an emergency room visit because the barb must be removed. Soak the area in hot water to draw the toxin out if available, and calmly make your way to the hospital.

A few more random rules that are important are no running, no diving in the shallow end, no pushing people in, and no pulling or pushing another person under the water. 

Swimming is one of our favorite activities and it is great exercise, but fun can turn scary in a heartbeat. Parents, please do not ignore these life-saving water safety tips and teach your children these essential rules. It is imperative that we stay on guard to keep our summers safe and happy for our children! 

4 Replies to “Safeguard Your Child’s Summer”

  1. Melissa Jones says:

    This was very informative as there were quite a few points that were brought up I’d never heard of. I enjoyed reading up on this subject .

  2. Michelle says:

    Everyone should read and be aware…great information
    Thank you for taking the time to post. Life is fragile… be proactive

  3. Ray says:

    This is a very well done blog. Alexandra you are a great mom and always out to teach and help anyone

  4. Lucrecia Young says:

    I am very impressed with all of the information that you provided. This is a very serious and important subject that a lot of parents/people don’t think about. I am glad that you have brought it to the forefront. 😊

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