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Submersion injuries on the rise: Learn how to keep your kids safe in and out of the water

Diving into the refreshing waters of your family’s swimming pool or wading into the lapping waves at the beach might seem like the perfect solution to combat the blistering heat that accompanies a Texas summer.

But these places of cool relief can also be a danger zone for children.

Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for children younger than five in the U.S., according to the Scott & White Trauma Center.

The hospital has already seen six submersion cases involving children this year, said Injury Prevention/Outreach Coordinator and Safe Kids Mid-Texas Coalition Coordinator, Susan Burchfield. And because the swimming season in Central Texas lasts from March through October, she fears there could be more.

Pool Safety

The most important thing to remember while enjoying a day at the pool is to never leave your child alone, Burchfield said. Don’t assume that they are safe.

“While knowing how to swim is important, you don’t want to depend on that to save your child if they get in trouble in the water,” she said. “They could become entangled and unable to get out of the water.”

Many people believe that if a child is drowning, that they will be splashing and calling for help, but oftentimes children will slip under the water unnoticed and be unable to resurface.

“If you’re going to have a pool at your home, it needs to be fenced in,” Burchfield said. “And it needs to be self-locking with no easy access.”

The barrier must be a non-climbable, five-foot fence that completely surrounds the pool. And all gates must be locked when adults are not present.

Lake and River Safety

“If you are on open water, you must, by law, have on a life preserver,” Burchfield said.

The life vests must be Coast Guard approved flotation devices and not allow a children’s chin or ears to slip through the neck opening.

“Safe Kids has teamed up with the Corp of Engineers to offer loaner life preservers at life saver kiosks near the lake,” Burchfield said. “They can use them and bring them back.”

Air-filled swimming aids, such as water wings and inner tubes are not safety devices and should never be substituted for life preservers.

Another safety concern in a lake or river is diving into areas where the depth of the water is unknown.

“Always walk feet first into the area you will be diving into,” Burchfield said. “Just because you dove there before doesn’t mean there isn’t something hazardous there now.”

Even if you have explored the area where you will be diving, it is not considered safe unless the water is at least 12 feet deep.

Other Areas of Water Safety

It may seem obvious to watch your children carefully around swimming pools and lakes, but any container of water could potentially be a drowning hazard.

“A child can drown in an inch of water,” Burchfield said. “Parents have to be careful not to leave buckets or other things that can collect water where children have access to them.”

Young children may not have the body strength to get out of the water if they fall in. This means covering hot tubs, keeping toilet lids down and locked, and doors to bathrooms and utility rooms closed when not in use.

About the author

Jessa McClure
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Jessa McClure holds a degree in journalism and mass communication from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, TX, where she is currently an adviser for student publications. She has been a writer in the health care field since 2009.

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Submersion injuries on the rise: Learn how to keep your kids safe in and out of the water