When you have a pool at home, drowning is a tragedy your family needs to be aware of all year round. During the summer months, this risk increases as the pool is used recreationally and children become more comfortable around the water.
Consider these 4 all too common hazards around the water:
1) Pet Doors
While a doggie door has nothing to do with the water, it’s a high risk at a home with an unfenced pool and small children. A child can crawl through the pet door in a moment and make it poolside while adult attention is drawn away.
When visiting a home other than your own, make yourself aware of the potential risk. Ask if the pool is gated and verify the gate is latched and locked. Find out if there are any pet doors in the home and know their locations in case your child wanders off. Ask questions so you’re properly prepared to prevent a tragedy.
2) Water Wings
As one of the most popular pool flotation devices, water wings might seem like a great idea. However, for starters, any inflatable flotation device poses a major risk to your child. If a flotation device begins to leak or is punctured, the device will fail to hold your child securely above the water.
Furthermore, water wings can slip up onto a child’s wrists holding their arms floating above their head while lacking the body strength to pull their submerged head up from underwater.
The only flotation device I recommend is a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket. Check jackets for the U.S. Coast Guard Stamp of approval and don’t forget: no flotation system substitutes for adult supervision.
3) Inflatable Pool Toys
Giant inflatable swans, flamingos, shells, and other figures are trendy right now. While they look fantastic for Instagram, these oversized toys can be dangerous for inexperienced or small swimmers.
Children can make a game out of swimming under the inflatables or the toy can float over a swimmer’s path. The swimmer then gets stuck under the toy, unable to breach the water surface to breathe and panics. The onset of panic can stop even a normally strong swimmer if they don’t know what to do.
Talk to children about this risk and encourage them not to swim under the toys. Better yet, practice with children what they should do if they get stuck and set up the experience so they can escape with assistance nearby.
4) Small Distractions
Phone calls, reading a book poolside, and needy siblings (“Hey Mom, watch this!”) can all distract your attention in ways you wouldn’t expect. Keeping your eyes on your children and on the water is of utmost importance when playing in the water.
Drowning happens quickly and silently. In the movies, we often see drowning depicted with flailing arms and calls for help when in reality it’s someone slipping below the water’s surface and unable to pull themselves back up. When watching your children, be fully engaged in supervision.
Reduce the risk of a family member drowning by making sure your family knows the rules in the backyard and around the pool. Make sure all children know how to swim and siblings know to watch out for the younger ones. If you’re concerned about your family’s drowning risk book swim lessons with me or schedule a water safety class to help have a conversation and develop water safety skills everyone can benefit from.
Jackie Follmuth is a swim lesson instructor who loves to teach children and adults about water safety. She’s been teaching swim lessons for nearly a decade and while initially started teaching at public pools, she now teaches private lessons in the homes of families on evenings and weekends.
Jackie has a passion for people and public service and completed her Master of Public Administration degree with a focus in Environmental Policy from Texas Tech University in 2017. She earned her B.S. in Public Management & Policy from the University of Arizona with minors in Philosophy (ethics courses), Sociology, and Information, Sciences, Technology & Arts.