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Water Safety Tips for Kids in Westchester

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. – As the temperatures begin to rise, many of us will visit pools, lakes and beaches to relax and have fun this summer. However, summer is no time for a vacation from safety.

Safety experts from Blythedale Children’s Hospital in Valhalla and Safe Kids Westchester, as well as the Westchester County Bureau of Public Health Protection, say that swimming safety is easy as A-B-C if parents follow these tips to keep children safe around water.

A is for Adult Supervision

Lena Cavanna, director of community relations for Blythedale Children’s Hospital, points out that drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury-related death in children up to four years old, and the second leading cause for children ages five to 14. She says that drowning happens quickly and silently and children under age four can lose consciousness in 30 seconds or less. Almost 80 percent of children involved in a home-drowning accident had only been missing for five minutes or less when found in the swimming pool.

The key is to never stop watching.

“You have to be vigilant,” said Peter DeLucia, assistant commissioner for the Westchester County Bureau of Public Health Protection. “Never turn your back on the children in the pool. If you have to leave, even for a minute, make the children come out of the pool. Kids like to engage in high-risk activities and horseplay so it only takes a second for something to happen. Also, remember that flotation devices, like inflatable rafts, are not safety devices. They’re for recreation.”

Safe Kids Westchester says to ensure that children near or in the water are always under adult supervision and that an adult is designated the “water watcher” who maintains constant eye-to-eye contact.

B is for Barriers

Local building codes stipulate that barriers must be in place between your home and swimming pool or spa. These barriers are layers of protection that can help prevent water-related injuries. Barriers can buy time so you can get to your child before an injury happens.

Safe Kids Westchester offers these barrier tips:

  • Pool barriers should be a four-sided fence with a self-closing and self-latching gate that opens outward.
  • Make sure that any chairs or toys that can be climbed upon to get over a fence are removed.
  • If the home opens directly to the pool, door alarms and locks should be installed.

“The key here is layers of protection,” DeLucia adds. “We have these codes for a reason. These alarms can be purchased at many locations and they are as loud and annoying as smoke alarms and will get your attention. You might also want to consider surface alarms for the pool. They will go off if something breaks the surface tension of the water, like when someone falls in the pool.”

C is for Classes

“Everyone should know how to swim,” DeLucia said. “It’s great on so many levels. It’s a great low-impact exercise and it will also give your child that extra level of safety.”

Cavanna notes that the American Academy of Pediatric no longer advises against swimming lessons for children under the age of four, but does advise against swimming lessons for children under the age of one.

Safe Kids Westchester offers these tips:

  • If your child is taking swimming lessons at a young age, ensure that the class adheres to guidelines established by the national YMCA, which forbids submersion of young children and encourages parents to participate in all activities.
  • Adults should take CPR classes - it could be a lifesaver.

DeLucia adds that even if your child has had swim lessons, it’s still important to watch them in the pool.

“As a father of seven-year-old twins, we had them take swimming lessons very early and followed the YMCA guidelines,” he said. “Now, they are both on the swim team. But we still keep our eye on them when they’re in the pool because, well, they’re seven.”

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