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May Is National Water Safety Month

Posted May 29 2009 10:14pm

The Association of Pool and Spa Professionals, the National Recreation and Park Association, and the World Waterpark Association have designated May as National Water Safety Month. School’s getting out and summer’s almost here, which means that more and more children are going to be heading to pools, waterparks and the beach.

I live in Florida, where we swim all year. Not surprisingly, we hear often that a child has drowned. In fact, drowning is the number-one cause of death for children under age 5. Seventy-five percent of the victims are babies between the ages of 12-25 months.

Following are some tips for keeping your children safe in the water:

Teach your children how to swim. Sign them up for lessons as soon as they’re old enough to participate. If you’re an adult and you can’t swim, get lessons for yourself, too! You never know when you’ll have to rescue a child who has fallen out of a boat or into a swimming pool.

Check for lifeguards. If you’re going to a public pool or a beach, make sure that lifeguards are posted. Here in Florida, we know how dangerous rip currents can be in the ocean and that we should swim parallel to the shore if we find ourselves caught in one. But many vacationers are unaware of this. Don’t swim in the ocean if lifeguards aren’t present, especially if you have kids.

Don’t let kids swim alone. Even if your child is a good swimmer, she should never swim unsupervised. Teach him to always swim with a friend and an adult present.

Limit diving. Make sure children know never to dive headfirst into the water. The American Red Cross recommends that water be 9 feet deep before diving or jumping.

Don’t drink and swim or boat. This tip is for the teens and adults. Just like driving an automobile, never operate a boat, Jet Ski or even go water skiing if you’ve been drinking. And, yes, you can get arrested for boating under the influence of alcohol!

Don’t use water wings as life-saving devices. Water wings might give you a little extra comfort in knowing they help your child to float, but they should never be used instead of a life jacket or life preserver. They’re easily punctured and may tempt kids to go into deep water when they cannot swim.

Use sunscreen. My teenage son recently attended a party at the beach. It was cloudy and rainy much of the day, so he didn’t use sunscreen. He got severely burned and is now paying the price with discomfort and peeling. Even worse, he’s put himself at greater risk of experiencing skin cancer when he’s older. Make sure your kids are wearing sunscreen. Hats and protective shirts are also great. Reapply the sunscreen periodically if they’re doing a lot of swimming. Look for products that are safe for young children, especially babies.

Know pool safety rules. If you, your neighbors or family members have a swimming pool, order Safety: A Pool Owner’s Visual Guide DVD. It’s only 10 minutes long, but it really could save a child’s life. This DVD taught me a lot of things that I wasn’t aware of, even though my family had a swimming pool when I was growing up and I’ve lived in Florida for more than 20 years. Visit http://www.tenminutesforlife.com or call 1-877-TEN-MINUTES for more information.

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