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Safe Kids – Protecting Children From Water Dangers

As summer approaches, we can finally start looking forward to more outdoor activities. Living in Utah offers so many things to do outside together as a family from water activities such as swimming and boating to hiking, camping, and playing in the park. While being outside and getting in daily physical activity is greatly encouraged, it’s important to remember to take certain steps to keep everyone in the family safe. In the coming weeks, I will be discussing water safety, boating safety, and heat stress. For further discussion on sun safety, see Dr. Paxton’s post from March. I will start with water safety.

Drowning ranks as the number 1 cause of injury-related death in children ages 1-4 years and number 3 in children 19 and under. Children should never be left unattended near any source of water for any period of time, no matter how brief it is, especially including bath-time. As a resident at Primary Children’s Hospital, I had the experience of working with an unfortunate toddler who suffered permanent brain damage following an accident involving a bucket of mop water. They had been a normal toddler up until that fateful accident, but now they are reliant on feeding tubes and constant care. The danger is very real.

Water safety is something that needs to be considered year-round. The most obvious source of water hazards that we think of exist outside during the summer while swimming in natural bodies of water such as lakes and oceans as well as swimming pools, but people often forget that water hazards exist even in the house. Infants and young children can drown in as little as 1 inch of water, which makes things like bathtubs, toilets, filled sinks, and buckets filled with cleaning water for household chores just as dangerous as the lakes and swimming pools we think of during the summer. Outdoor water hazards that exist year-round include things such as ditches, storm drains, rain barrels, and fountains.

Care should be taken to ensure that no infant, toddler, or child is ever given unrestricted access to water. This starts with keeping a vigilant eye on your young ones while they are bathing or using the bathroom, and never leaving any buckets of water unattended. Even walking away from the bathtub for “just one minute” to answer the phone or get the door can be dangerous. Ensure that toddlers do not have access to bathrooms without adult supervision, and that toilets are kept closed and possibly locked to prevent any accidental submersions. In the event that a child suffers a submersion injury, call 911 promptly.

Caution must always be exercised when children are near outdoor water sources such as pools, hot tubs, lakes, and oceans. First and foremost, never leave your child unattended, regardless of whether or not there is a lifeguard on duty. For younger children, always keep them within an arm’s length of an adult. Encourage older children to use the buddy system and swim with a friend or sibling. Any inexperienced swimmer should wear a life-jacket in addition to being supervised.

Always remember that accidents can happen regardless of the circumstances. Always practice prevention and be prepared. In the event of an emergency, know what to do. Call 911

Some good water safety recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Red Cross to keep in mind are:

1. A responsible adult should always supervise children. If the adult knows CPR, even better. The adult(s) should not be drinking alcohol if they are responsible for watching the children. They should also be free from distractions such as cell phones, tablets, or computers.

2. Young infants and toddlers should be within an arm’s length of an adult. This is known as “touch supervision.”

3. Establish safety rules such as no running and no pushing others underwater.

4. Children should ALWAYS wear a personal flotation device such as a life jacket when they are swimming or on a boat. Inflatable toys or “floaties” are NOT a suitable substitute.

5. Completely enclose any backyard swimming pools with at least a 4-foot high fence that separates the pool from the house and has a locking gate. Houses that have doors that open to the pool area pose a risk for unsupervised children to get out and get into trouble.

6. Keep a safety ring with a rope nearby.

7. Make sure all drain covers are intact and in place to avoid entrapment of children underwater due to the suctioning of the drains.


Haley Pledger, PA
Women’s Care
Matthew Walton, DO
Austin Bills, DO
Family Medicine
Aaron Fausett, PA
Family Medicine
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