Summer puts special emphasis on water safety with kids
Kids love water, especially as the weather heats up. But greater access to water brings increased danger for children.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, accidental drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional injury death for children ages 1 to 14, and children who survive can suffer permanent brain damage.
Parents and caregivers need to be vigilant in protecting kids around any kind of water.
Every backyard pool, whether it is inground or above ground, should be surrounded by a kid-proof fence.
If there is entry to the pool area through a door from the house, there should be an alarm that sounds if the door is opened.
Children should never be in or around a pool, even for a few minutes, without the supervision of an adult who understands water safety and can perform CPR.
"It is more than just being within visual proximity," said Dr. Ellen Mlot, a pediatrician on staff at Amita Health Alexian Brothers Medical Center Elk Grove Village. "The best precaution for children's safety is 'touch supervision,' which means being physically within arm's reach of the child."
Children who cannot swim well should wear Coast Guard-approved life jackets that fit snugly and are properly fastened.
Swim aids like floaties won't prevent drowning, and they can give children -- and adults -- a false sense of security.
Also, swim lessons do not make a child drowning-proof.
The danger comes not only from pools.
"Children can drown in as little as 2 inches of water, so it is essential that parents empty and turn over any water toys such as kiddie pools, water tables, or buckets," Mlot said.
And if a child is missing, check pools and other water sources first.
When you are at a beach or other open water, try to swim in a designated area, preferably with a lifeguard.
If there is no designated area, or if a lifeguard is not on duty, tell your children to stay close to the shore.
Talk to them about riptides and other hazards in open water. Explain that they should not swim too far out, because they could find themselves unable to get back.
And tell your children that they should never, ever dive into water unless you or another adult has checked for unseen hazards such as submerged rocks or trees. They could hit their head and be paralyzed or knocked unconscious and drown.
Anyone riding in a boat of any size should wear a Coast Guard-approved lifejacket at all times. This applies even to adults.
Don't let children lean over the side of a moving boat -- to put their hands in the water, for example. And always seat children where they would be least likely to be tossed from the boat if it hits choppy water.
Never drink alcohol while boating or go out on a boat with someone who is drinking. According to the Coast Guard, alcohol is the leading factor in boating accidents.
Finally, Mlot said, "After any water submersion, take care to wash your child with soap and shampoo. And dry them off completely, including their ears, to prevent swimmer's ear and other infections caused by exposure to water."
• Children's health is a continuing series. This week's article is courtesy of Amita Health, which is comprised of 19 hospitals and more than 230 sites of care. With the addition of Presence Health earlier this year, Amita Health now has 900 providers in its medical groups, more than 26,000 associates, 7,000 physician partners and serves over 4.3 million residents in the greater Chicago area. For additional information about Amita Health's pediatric programs, visit www.amitahealth.org.