Stay safe in the swimming pool (2024)

Pool season is here, and the sounds of people playing in the water are a sure sign that the summer season is really heating up.

But the fun of playing in the water can quickly turn tragic.

Almost 400 children younger than age 5 drown every year in swimming pool accidents across the country, and more than 3,200 go to a hospital emergency room after a near drowning.

A child can drown in 2 inches of water in under five minutes and never make a sound. Children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates — according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more children between those ages die from drowning than any other cause of death except for birth defects. Fatal drowning remains the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages 1 to 14 years, the CDC says.

And, according to the American Red Cross, 69 percent of young children who drown were not expected to be in or near water. That makes it important to check water first when a child is missing.

Children aren’t the only group at risk from drowning — the CDC reports there are 4,000 fatal accidental drownings in the United States each year. That’s an average of 11 every day. In addition, the CDC adds, there are 8,000 nonfatal drownings. And the cost of those incidents can be steep — nearly 40 percent of drownings treated in emergency departments require hospitalization or transfer for further care, and drowning injuries can cause brain damage or other serious outcomes.

In our region, the CDC reports that the number of drowning deaths each year per 100,000 people in Ohio is 1.14. In Pennsylvania, it’s 0.81 and in West Virginia it is 1.36. The national rate is 1.31.

A pool in the backyard is a great way to beat the heat and allow everyone in the family to have fun. But pool owners need to practice safety to ensure everyone in or near the pool remains safe.

Parents can take children to swim classes at an early age. A child should not have to rely upon noodles or other flotation devices to stay above water. Even with swimming classes, young children should never be left alone unsupervised in a pool. According to statistics from the Children’s Safety Network, formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk a child between the ages of 1 and 4 will drown by 88 percent.

Pool owners need to have a checklist of safety gear that needs to be near the pool at all times. The list should include a ring buoy and reach pole. A first aid kit and cell phone, with a complete list of emergency contact numbers, also need to be readily available.

Pools should be surrounded by an appropriate fence, and the fence should have a self-closing, self-locking gate lock when the pool isn’t in use or supervised. A secure cover also is a good idea to keep children from falling in while adults aren’t present. The Red Cross said it is important to install anti-entrapment drain covers with safety release systems.

Visiting children should be closely watched. A curious child can sneak away to look at the pool while parents are busy talking, so check the pool first if a child is missing.

For above-ground pools, steps and ladders to the pool should be secured or removed when the pool is not in use. And, in any case, pool owners need to remember that the things used to maintain the pool can present a danger: Injuries from pool chemicals, for instance, result in about 4,500 visits to an emergency room each year.

A trip to a lake or swimming hole can be just as dangerous, if not more, because young children can vanish in a matter of seconds. Don’t take chances at swimming holes and never dive headfirst into the water. In fact, the CDC reports that 40 percent of drownings among children 5-14 occur in natural water and 30 percent occur in swimming pools, and more than half of fatal and nonfatal drownings among those 15 and older occur in lakes, rivers or oceans. And, nearly 80 percent of those who die are males.

Adults also need to remember that alcohol and swimming never mix — nearly 70 percent of deaths associated with water recreation are alcohol-related — and to keep an eye to the sky for approaching bad weather.

Enjoy the pool or lake this summer — just make sure to play it safe.

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Stay safe in the swimming pool (2024)
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