The Ultimate Guide To Swimming Safety For Kids

Summertime means summer fun, being outdoors more, and for many of us, swimming. Kids look forward all year to swimming in the summertime. Parents, however, not so much.

As parents, we know that, while it can be a fun pastime, swimming carries many risks for kids. Drowning can occur anywhere there is water – not just in swimming pools, but in bathtubs, hot tubs, ponds, the ocean, lakes, and rivers. In this ultimate guide to swimming safety for kids, we will discuss what you can do to keep swimming safe and fun for your kids.

The Ultimate Guide to Swimming Safety for Kids

Facts and Statistics About Swimming Safety

  • The WHO says that there are 320,000 drowning deaths each year.
  • Those at highest risk of drowning include children, males and those who have increased access to water.

Myths About Drowning

We have all heard these common misconceptions about drowning, through the years. Psychologist Francesco Pia created the Instinctive Drowning Response, which contradicts the following myths about drowning:

  • Drowning people will yell or call out to you (Myth): This is a myth, as drowning kids (and others) are physically unable to yell out for help.
  • Another person who is drowning might be able to rescue a drowning child (Myth): This is a myth as, again, drowning people can’t physically help others.
  • Drowning takes a while to occur (Myth): In reality, one can drown in 20 to 60 seconds.
  • A drowning child will make noise (Myth): When a child gets quiet, that’s when parents should worry the most. A child who is noisy is playing in the water. A quiet child might be drowning.
  • Drowning people will wave their hands in the air (Myth): This is a myth because, again, drowning people physically can’t wave.

Signs of Drowning

As a parent, you might think that you could easily recognize the signs of drowning. However, they can be easy to miss, especially if you are distracted or in conversation with someone while your child swims in the pool.

In fact, per the Zac Foundation, up to half of all kids who drown are just 25 yards away from an adult when drowning occurs. According to Emergency Medical Technicians, signs that your child is drowning include:

  • The child’s head is low in the water, and their mouth is at the waterline.
  • A child is gasping or hyperventilating.
  • The child’s eyes cannot focus, and look glassy or empty, or are closed.
  • The baby’s head is tilted back, with their mouth open, near the water’s surface.
  • The child is not using their legs to kick and are vertical in the water.
  • The Kid is trying to roll over on their back.
  • The child looks like they are climbing an invisible ladder.
  • The baby is trying to swim but not making any progress.

How to Be Prepared When Your Kids Are Swimming

According to the CPSC and, when your child is near the water or swimming, being vigilant and following these tips can help to keep your child safe:

  • Never leave your child unattended near or in water.
  • Always supervise them. Your eyes must be on them at all times!
  • Don’t rely on toys to be safety devices to save your child.
  • Teach your child how to swim, especially how to float and tread water.
  • Don’t allow your child to run, push or horse around in or near the pool.
  • Teach your child to stay away from pool drains.
  • Make sure that proper barriers, fences, covers and alarms are installed on any pool in which your child swims.
  • Remove all obstructions around the pool.
  • Make sure that all pools in which your child swims have drain covers.
  • Learn how to perform CPR.
  • Cover all pools, tubs and spas when not in use.
  • Deflate all portable pools when not in use.
  • Don’t leave toys in the pool. This can entice a child to want to reach into the pool, falling in.

How to Prepare Your Kids to Swim Safely

Although you want to be with your kids at all times, there will inevitably be times that you won’t be with them when they are swimming. There are ways that you can prepare your children to swim safely when you aren’t present. They include:

  • Teach your child to swim at a young age. When they are just babies, get them in the water with floaters on their arms (and with you holding them at all times). The more they become used to the water at a young age, the more respect they will have for it, and the easier it will be to teach them how to swim.
  • Find a good swimming instructor- don’t try to teach them yourself, even if you are a great swimmer. An impartial expert is the best swimming teacher.
  • You should teach your child, from an early age, to avoid dunking others in the pool.
  • Teach your child to never run near the pool. They could slip and fall, either on the concrete around the pool or into the water.
  • Don’t allow your child to go swimming without you present until they have mastered these swimming basics (per Michigan Health):
    • He/’she is able to tread water or float for at least 60 seconds
    • Being able to swim for at least 25 yards before exiting the pool.
    • The child is able to turn in a circle and locate an exit.
    • Being able to pull themselves out of the water without a ladder.
    • A Kid is able to jump into the water, become fully submerged, and get back to the surface on their own.
  • Make sure your kids know the following swimming rules, and that they must adhere to them even if you are not present:
    • No eating a big meal before swimming.
    • Always swim with another person.
    • Never act like you’re drowning, ever, just for attention.
    • No chewing gum while swimming.
    • Never run around the pool.
    • No swimming after dark.
    • Don’t bring electronics into the pool.
    • Never go into deeper water than you feel comfortable in.
    • Drink plenty of water when you’ve been in the sun for a long time.
    • Use sunscreen and reapply after being in the water.
    • Never swim without an adult present and watching.
    • No swimming once you hear a clap of thunder. Get out of the pool, take cover, and stay out of the pool until all thunder and lightning is done.
    • Never swim where the lifeguard can’t see you.
    • If swimming outdoors, stay away from piers.
    • Face the waves if swimming outdoors, so there’s less chance of getting knocked down by them.
    • Always wear life jackets when out in open water.
The Ultimate Guide to Swimming Safety for Kids

Be Aware of Secondary and Dry Drowning

You might have heard in the news about dry drowning and secondary drowning. These are two different things, and, while they can cause death, death by dry or secondary drowning is much rarer than death by drowning.

Dry drowning occurs when a child inhales water, causing muscle spasms in their airway and blocking air flow. Symptoms happen right after the drowning incident.

Secondary, or delayed, drowning occurs when a child inhales water into their lungs, causing swelling and inflammation. The swelling can occur hours and days after the child inhaled water, which is why it is known as delayed or secondary drowning. Symptoms may occur 24 hours after water entering the lungs. Signs to watch for in your child include:

  • Coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Lethargy and fatigue

For other important safety tips, check out this guide to safety for kids and babies.

Be sure to watch your child closely after any near-drowning incident. If any of the above symptoms occur, call your child’s doctor.

Learn Child CPR

One of the best ways that you can feel safe while your children are swimming is to learn CPR. This is a great skill for all adults to have, whether or not you are around children. To find a CPR course, contact your local hospitals, medical centers, or the American Red Cross.

Make sure the course you choose covers both adult and child/infant CPR (or take different courses if necessary). In this way, you can feel secure that you will be able to help your child, or someone else’s child when the need arises.  

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The Ultimate Guide to Swimming Safety for Kids