With the summer months quickly approaching, we look forward to spending time with our families outdoors and enjoying the sunny days at local beaches and pools. While it’s a great time of the year with so many outdoor water activities to partake in, it is very important to safeguard our loved ones from the potential dangers of water-related accidents.

Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death among children less than 5 years of age. Annually, over 3,000 children visit an emergency department for near-drowning accidents, and over half of them are hospitalized. Although most victims suffer minimal harm, prolonged submersion times with poor resuscitation efforts can lead to severe neurologic damage.

Prior to 2010, the American Academy of Pediatrics discouraged parents from enrolling children less than 4 years of age in swimming lessons and advised that swimming instruction did not prevent against drowning. It was thought that children under 4 years were not developmentally ready for swimming lessons, which may create a false sense of security by reducing their fear of water.

The AAP has since altered its stance on drowning prevention, as studies done in other countries may prove contrary. The new AAP policy neither disapproves nor supports formal aquatic lessons for children 1-4 years of age. It also mentions that although swimming lessons for infants less than 1 year of age have become popular, there is no evidence to support the safety and efficacy of these programs.

Besides lack of swimming ability, another factor that influences drowning risk is lack of close supervision. All caregivers should be trained in CPR, as it has been shown to save lives and improve outcomes in drowning victims. Drowning happens quickly and quietly and can occur any place with water- bathtubs, whirlpools, inflatable pools, even areas with supervised lifeguards.  Designated adults should be watching children at all times with no distractions. For infants and small children, adults should always be in the water no more than an arm’s length away.

Among children 1-4 years of age, most drownings occur in home swimming pools. According to the Centers for Disease Control, four- sided pool fencing that separates the pool from the house and yard may reduce a child’s drowning risk up to 80%. Pool locks, alarms, and covers may serve as additional means of protection, but should never replace proper fencing.  In addition, inner-tubes and foam toys, such as “water wings” and “noodles” should not be thought of as personal flotation devices. These and other water toys may actually lure curious young children near the water and should be put away when not in use.

For more information on learning about drowning prevention, please visit the websites from the American Academy of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control and U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Summer is a great time of year, and with the right swimming precautions, you can keep your family safe while still having fun in the sun.