Monday, July 19, 2010

The most important post you'll read this summer

When I was 10 years old, my mom received a devestating phone call from her close friend. Her two year old son had somehow managed to walk into their neighbour's backyard, and fell into the pool. Paramedics arrived as quickly as they could, and the baby was rushed to the Children's Hospital. He was in a coma for days - he was blue and unresponsive when he was pulled out of the pool. Doctors gave my mom's friend almost no hope for a healthy and full recovery for her son. However, miracles do happen. He came out of his coma and is living a healthy life today.

Many children are not as lucky.

Every summer it's one tragic story after another: "Toddler drowns in backyard pool" are words we see time and time again when we read the news, and they are the words we don't want to have to see. Every story I read about yet another drowning is heartbreaking.

According to the Canadian Red Cross, there are over 400 drownings in Canada each year. (A report I read showed that there were over 3,000 drownings in the United States in 2007. 30% being children.) There are far too many horrific stories of young people dying in the water. Even more tragic to me is when I read about children who have drowned who are the same age as my children; it sends chills up my spine, and it breaks my heart in a million pieces.

Drowning is the second leading cause of death among children. This is alarming because it is something you can prevent. The truth is, the majority of drownings occur as a result of lack of supervision. Children who are left alone can easily fall into the pool, and sometimes, they can become trapped by hazards such as the filtration system.

Remember, it only takes a moment. It is not okay to leave your young child outside while you rush in to get the telephone that is ringing inside. Drownings happen suddenly - and drownings are silent. "But I was only gone a second..." is not something you want to tell the paramedics later.

Last year, when my oldest son was 3, I left him sitting on the pool steps without a flotation device on, thinking he was safe, as I started doing my laps. When I was swimming back towards him, he slipped from the steps and went underwater. He was not moving - I couldn't see his face. It was the scariest few seconds of my life as I swam as fast as I could to get to him. I pulled him out, with the help of my friend, and he started coughing and crying. I was so thankful he was okay. And I have never made that mistake again.

Here are some tips to help keep your children safe this summer:

When you're outside with your children, make sure they are within arm's reach of you or your partner - or whoever is looking after them. This summer, my family and I are spending almost every day in the pool, enjoying the water, and my boys, 2 and almost 5, are strong swimmers, with floaties on. My oldest son swims without floaties, as well, but to be safe, he usually wears them in the pool and ocean, and we're always right there with him. Always. Until they're older, they will not be going in the pool without one of us there with them. Flotation devices are very important - and just as much fun can be had in the water with floaties or a life jacket on!

If you are going to put your child in an after-school or weekend activity, make sure it's for swimming lessons. There is nothing more important that having your child grow up to be confident in and around bodies of water - learning to swim is not only a lot of fun - and a great way to get some physical activity - but it's vital for survival, too. I started swimming from a very young age, because I spent summers in Greece, and I took swimming lessons every single year, too. (Until your child is four years old, lessons are more to get them used to being in the water. The real learning comes later on!)

If you have a little wading pool in your backyard, make sure to empty it after each use. Believe it or not, it only takes a very small amount of water for a child to choke and drown on.

If you have a swimming pool in your backyard, I'm sure you have the proper fence built around the pool - double check every night that the fence is locked!

Don't leave the water toys or noodles in the pool or lying around the pool when you're finished swimming - put them away, because toys could attract young children, prompting them to reach into the pool to get what they want.

Above all else, keep an eye on all the children in the pool. Even if you're not a certified lifeguard, you can still pretend you're on Baywatch! Keep counting to make sure all little bodies are accounted for in the pool. And don't forget the sunscreen!

This is National Drowning Prevention Week (July 17 to July 24). Although it's only one week, we should all remember to keep ourselves and our children safe around water year round!

If you have any tips for staying safe in the water, I'd love to hear them, too!

27 comments:

Shell said...

My heart was pounding the whole time that I was reading this. I'm so afraid of this happening. My boys don't have a fear of the water and yet can't swim. I make my 2 year old wear this life jacket sort of thing that has floaties that are connected by a flotation thing across his chest. Even though we go to a pool where there is a large area that is just 2 feet and he can stand, it's just barely. I have 2 other kids in the pool at the same time and can't chance that I might have to go help one of them for a second and have my little one slip under.

Gina said...

When we were house hunting the one thing on my DO NOT WANT list was a pool. Unfortunately, my dream house included a pool - which we are now taking down. The risk to my children, other children is just too great. We have wonderful public pools in my community and my kids will take swimming lessons, but I don't want that danger in my backyard.

IASoupMama said...

Excellent post! I actually blogged about going to the pool without knowing it was Drowning Prevention Week.

My tip: my kids are the only ones at the pool in wetsuits -- it is 1000x easier to spot a kid who is wearing something with sleeves than it is to pick out a boy in a sea of shirtless 5-8 year old boys.

Erica said...

Very good advice !!! Last week i was in the pool with Sofia and standing right in front of her and she slipped and went under water and I pulled her up right away but the same thing...she was coughing and upset and i was so upset too that it happened to her:( SO SCARY

Amanda said...

As a certified lifeguard and certified to train lifeguards I saw everyday when I was working at the pool parents who would leave their child alone to go get a toy, their towel, etc. I absolutely agree and cannot stress enough that if you are not within arms reach you have gone TOO far! Doesn't matter if your child can swim or not, it's their life! Now that I have my own child one of my biggest fears is drownings because I know how quick it can happen. It only takes a small puddle of water for it to happen. Thankfully I never witnessed a drowning as my team and I were vigilent with our job but I have pulled numerous people out of the water.

I also strongly suggest that parents take a CPR course to know what to do should an emergency ever happen. My company has developed a 3 he Parent Safe course just for that reason!

Great post Loukia, we all need gentle reminders of the importance of water safety.

allisonzapata said...

These puddle jumpers are awesome!! they work really well, but don't eat the kid like some life jackets do!

http://www.stearnsflotation.com/Kids-Life-Jackets-C26.aspx

Smart A$$ Mom said...

Did you just see that post about the Real Housewife of Orange County who left her kids alone in their stroller and the whole thing rolled into the pool?! It was INSANE.

Jackie H. said...

Very important and timely advice. One thing I would add to it, Some friends of mine left their toddler in a baby pool with some "older" kids. I think the oldest was 10. They trusted the older kids to watch the younger kids. The toddler drowned. This is not a responsibilty we want to put on our kids at any age. Tragically, sometimes we don't realize something until it happens- so it's important to share experiences with others.

Barb said...

My children are 13 and 11 and I still feel the need to "watch" them in the pool ~ not so cool when their friends are over so I covertly watch them from inside the house or make an excuse to be outside by the pool. They are both strong swimmers but you never know when an accident can happen.

Trish said...

Definitely a good important post! My heart breaks as well!

A Woman On The Edge said...

I have 4 kids, a pool and haven't put my kids in swimming lessons. Mostly because with a pool in the back yard that served as their 'lessons' My oldest 3 kids can all swim very well and my youngest wants nothing to do with the water! I found that with them having a pool at their disposal encouraged them to swim at an early age. The first thing we did when we bought our house was to fence the pool, and we have a strict lifejacket policy for non-swimmers. Of course we are always with the kids as well when we are outside.

I think that for those who maybe can't afford the lessons or who don't have a pool, taking your kids to public swimming is just as helpful. Getting kids in the water with you and encouraging them to learn to swim and be safe in the water is important. Public swimming is very affordable and offered weekly at most public pools. That's what we would do in the winter to encourage our kids skills year round. It scares me that we have been hearing about so many water deaths this year. Great post and great tips for water safety!

miksplace said...

When I was a kid my younger brother fell into our uncle's pond, before anyone could help he suddenly learned to doggie paddle and got to the side and got out. He was lucky.

Now I always make sure the grand kids earn to swim as early as possible, they always want grandpa to take them to the pool when they come over. I still watch them like a hawk though while they swim.

T Rex Mom said...

Thank you for this posting. It is so important and it cannot be emphasized enough.

Leslie said...

My in-laws have a pool and when our 3 year old nephew learned how to walk, they instantly put up a new railing with a gate sectioning off the pool and the deck. Since then, he's become like Hoodini, and we've had to buy a padlock AND a combination lock (both are on the gate!) to keep him from opening it. He's too smart - just waiting for the day when he's big enough to climb over the fence. Good post Loukia, very happy that C was okay.

Pres. Kathy said...

Thanks for this great post! I am aloways next to my little guy when we go swimming. When I was younger I almost drowned in a wave pool and ever since then I have been afraid of drowning. Because of this I am extra protective of my little guy. Once I was at the pool with my little guy (he was 18 months) and this lady asked me to keep an eye on her kid while she ran to get something. I told her I did not feel comfortable because my little guy was a runner so I did not want to take that responsibility since I knew my guy would run off and I would have to go after him. She was so upset. I didn't care, but the funny thing is that it took her 15 minutes to come back and in that time my little guy ran off 4 times!! May God watch over all the people that are in the water!

Shannon @ AnchorMommy said...

Thank you for this post, Loukia! You are so, so right on. There is just no messing around when it comes to water. I nearly drowned when I was a kid, but luckily an aunt saw me and dove in to scoop me out. I was lucky. But when it comes to my kids, I will not rely on luck – just good old fashioned caution, in extreme amounts!!!

Facie said...

Where I live (Pittsburgh), kids under 6 must be accompanied by an adult 16 years or older. It is crazy to me to think that a parent would leave a 6 or 7 year old (pretty much anyone under 12 or 13 for that matter) at the pool unsupervised, but I have no doubt people do.

We have a wave pool near where I live, and I pretty much stay in it with my almost seven year old the entire time. If I am not in the water, I am standing on the edge. She is taking swim lessons, but that has done nothing to appease me in such a crowded place with waves.

CaraBee said...

This is one of my worst nightmares. We've done several rounds of swim lessons and I plan to start Sophie in a more intensive swim class this fall. It is so important.

rebecca @ altared spaces said...

Thanks for all the great reminders. We think it's always someone "else", but the truth is, the kids that drown have mothers that didn't mean to let it happen.

Laura said...

When my boys were at a certain age, my pediatrician would always remind me that they were in the highest percentile -- at that age, and being boys -- to be at risk for accidental drowning. I was always thankful for his care and reminders.

Great post. You have two boys? I have four sons! Come on over!

blueviolet said...

It's entirely too common an occurrence and it can happen in a split second! (just as you saw and prevented)

Elaine A. said...

Drowning scares the heck outta me! This is a VERY important topic Loukia, thanks for taking the time on your blog to talk about it. You may have just saved some lives. Thank you...

Mom2Miles said...

I am terrified of something happening to my boys in the water. We go to the beach & the pool all the time, use flotation devices & take safety precautions, but still. My youngest has slipped under the water several times when I was RIGHT THERE and each time, it's terrifying. My older son can swim now, so that eases my fears a little. But I can't even fathom letting a sitter take my kids around water or sitting & reading at the pool as I see other moms doing. I am constantly on high-alert.

designHER Momma said...

I'm a paranoid mess. Even though I grew up on Lake Michigan, I'm totally paranoid with my own kids. ugh.

Mommyfriend Lori said...

Thank you for this post. All great information and a sobering reminder. No child should lose their life to drowning.

Nenette AM said...

Oh, honey, I'm so glad your baby came out of it okay. Luckily, you were right there to help him.
I'm so afraid of this. It's scary!

My kids are always supervised, and I'm making sure they know how to swim. It's an important skill to know!

Thanks for sharing this, Loukia. You are a caring person and an awesome mom. xoxo

Laura said...

Also an important thing to remember is that wearing a Personal Floatation device does NOT mean your child will always be safe and not be in danger of drowning. It does not replace being in arm's reach of your child.

You should never leave your child even for a second even when they are wearing one. Children can easily get swept off their feet and it is very easy for them to end up floating at the surface in their PFD but they can be face down. They can still drown as they may not have the strength to get their legs back down or take their face out of the water while they are floating at the surface.

Blog Designed by: NW Designs