Drowning Prevention: Appoint a Water Guardian!
Somehow it is already summer. This year feels so different, but many families are figuring out how to do a bit of traveling even in the midst of the Covid virus. As long as you take reasonable precautions, getting a change of scenery can be a wonderful thing. Anytime you are away from home, there are a range of safety issues that can arise. When you get to your vacation destination, do a basic assessment as soon as you arrive. Are there smoke and carbon monoxide detectors? Do you know where the fire extinguisher is? If you are visiting older relatives, are any of their medications safety out of reach? Are any unfamiliar pets comfortable with children? Have you asked to make certain that there are no unsecured firearms?
Think like a toddler. What type of trouble can they get into? Can they open the doors on their own?
Water danger is one of the more essential considerations. If you are going anywhere that has a pool or is near water of any sort, you need to be aware that drowning can happen in just a few inches of water and it can happen quickly!!! According to the CDC drowning is now the most common cause of death in children under the age of four (excluding congenital issues)
Here is a true story from one of my patients. Several adults and children were enjoying a day at a friend's pool in the East bay. They got out of the pool to have some lunch. Some of the oldest kids started to bicker. While the adults turned their attention to the squabble, a one year old got back into the pool unnoticed and submerged. Thank goodness another of the adults looked up, noticed, and was able to get her out and perform CPR. The little girl is perfectly fine, but this was terrifying for everyone. Just this week my friend Dr. Ted from Oath Pediatrics, fresh from his overnight shift in the hospital, was telling me about a close call, near drowning from a family pool in Walnut Creek. Just a moment of taking their eyes off of the kids almost led to tragedy. Sometimes having a lot of adults around lends a false sense of security. If kids are near a pool, the adults must take turns being on a shift as the designated lifeguard.
It is so important to be aware that a person who is drowning usually does not thrash about and call attention to the fact that they are having trouble. They can slip silently under the water without being noticed until it is too late. Even if your child has proven themselves to be solid swimmers, you need to stay actively focused and engaged on watching them like a hawk while they are in the water.
When I sent this post a couple of years ago, I became aware of Levi's Legacy https://www.levislegacy.com/ and I am going to continue to do my part to spread the word. Many parents are doing a good job of staying on high alert when they are actively at a poolside but the danger doesn’t end when you leave the pool area.
Levi's Legacy tells a heartbreaking story of a child who slipped out of the vacation home, made it out to the pool and drowned as the parents were busy doing some preparation for a family evening outing.
The important message here is that the lifeguard shift does NOT end when you go inside.
If you are staying anywhere with a pool, make certain that your child has absolutely no access to the pool area when there is no adult present. Hotels or apartments with fountains need to be treated with caution as well. If you do have pool access, there are a variety of pool alarms and safety monitors on the market. Some devices are little gadgets that your child wears around their wrist. Alarms and monitors may add a layer of safety but nothing takes the place of direct supervision. Someone needs to be on duty. Take turns. Appoint a water guardian. On duty mean no distractions (that means your cell phone. Put it down, you can do it.)