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Play it Safe: Expert advice to help prevent drownings

By Barbara Byers

In most cases, a child inadvertently gets out of the house after a door or entry has been left open or unlocked, usually due to human error. The child is thought to be safe inside, but someone else—often another adult or an older child—has left a door opened or unlocked. Although precautions were taken, human error has led to the drowning.

In the blink of an eye
Drowning can occur without warning and very quickly. Most drownings of toddlers happen while they were playing near a pool and fell in without notice. Nothing holds greater fascination for young children than water—it acts like a magnet. All it takes is turning your back for a few seconds for a drowning to occur.

Sadly, toddlers often make little noise when they tumble into a pool. Likewise, children—or adults for that matter—don’t shout for help when drowning or splash about and wave their arms as we have seen countless times on TV or in films. In fact, most people who are drowning are unable to call for help. Without enough time above the surface to inhale, exhaling to form speech is impossible. Also, a drowning person’s natural instinct is to press their arms downward to remain above the surface, hence they are unlikely to wave for help. As parents, grandparents, and caregivers, you need to know that if you are not within arm’s reach and watching your child at every moment, you are too far away to do anything.

No exceptions to the rules
Establishing a set of rules for family and guests is critical to ensuring tragedy doesn’t strike. These rules will change depending on the type of pool you have and equipment like diving boards and slides, but guidance for safe use of your pool is critical. For instance, you could make it mandatory that children only be in the pool when supervised by an adult, that all swimmers—including adults—swim with a buddy, or that pool covers be fully removed before anyone goes in the water.

Supervision of children in a pool at all times is a must—vigilance in this respect cannot be overstated. It is also important to keep in mind that swimming pools are not the only hazard to be aware of. Portable toddler pools can also be dangerous to babies and younger children, as they can drown in even 25 mm (1 in.) of water.

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