By Beth Lawrence
As summer ramps up and people head out to cool off in the water, parents should implement a water safety plan to keep children safe from accidental drownings.
“We like to always promote water safety,” said Anna Lippard, Jackson County Safe Kids Coordinator. “We don’t necessarily have as many in-ground pools, maybe inflatable pools and stuff like that, but for us it’s more about rivers and lakes.”
Accidental drowning is the second primary cause of death for children from 1 to 14 years old and the leading cause for children from age 1 to 4, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Most child drownings take place in spring and summer from May to August.
The most crucial thing parents can do is watch children closely.
“Drowning does not look like what you think it looks like,” Lippard said. “And that’s what makes it scary; it’s very quiet.”
It is not always calling for help, flailing, struggling and gasping for air.
One adult should be assigned to watch children when they are in water. Adults should take turns relieving each other.
The designee should only be watching the kids leaving all distractions like books and electronic devices alone giving “100 percent of your attention,” Lippard said.
Rescuers may have as few as 20 seconds to save someone from drowning, according to the CDC.
Parents should not fall into complacency around wading pools thinking that a drowning could not occur.
Children can drown in only a few inches of water.
“Just because you’re in knee-deep water that little bit of water doesn’t mean you should not be watching your child,” Lippard said.
Parents should also educate themselves about dry drowning and secondary drowning. Although both are rare, they do happen.
In dry drowning water does not fill the lungs. Inhaling water irritates vocal cords and causes spasms closing the airway.
Secondary drowning happens when water gets into the lungs and irritates them causing swelling and fluid buildup. Secondary drowning can happen as long as 48 hours after exposure to water. When out on lakes and rivers, children should always wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket that fits snuggly, especially in flowing water.
Parents should wear life vests as well.
“If you have to go after your child, the last thing you want to do is drown trying to save your child,” she said.
Lippard recommends swimming lessons for children when possible.
When classes are not available, parents can still teach children a few steps to survive in water.
Parents can teach children to float on their back, tread water and look for a nearby exit and the ability to get out of the water without a ladder in case they fall into the water.
Children can also drown in inconspicuous places. Buckets or water, bathtubs and other items that hold water should be drained or emptied, Lippard said.
Parents and older siblings should also learn CPR and first aid.
The Red Cross website can help locate a nearby in person class, or classes can be taken online.
Safe Kids Jackson County will give away life jackets this month while supplies last. Jackets will be available by appointment on June 16, 18 and 24 from 10 a.m. until noon. To schedule an appointment, call 587-8225.
Safe Kids North Carolina recommends the following tips to keep children safe in pools and open water
Always watch children and never leave them unattended.
Keep children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings.
Have a charged phone nearby at all times.
Know how to perform CPR on children and adults.
Understand the basics of lifesaving so you can assist in an emergency.
Install a fence at least 4 feet high around the perimeter of the pool or spa.
Use self-closing and self-latching gates.
Ensure all pools and spas have compliant drain covers. Install an alarm on the door leading from the house to the pool.
Pay attention to the warning flags at the beach that indicate the possibility of rip currents.
Teach children what to do if caught in a rip current. That is, stay calm, don’t fight the current, when free of the current, escape the current by swimming in a direction following the shoreline. If at any time you are unable to reach the shore, draw attention to yourself and call for help.
For more detailed information about water safety, go to www.safekids.org/water-safety.