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Oregon Family Magazine

Playing safe around water

06/01/2019 ● By Sandy Kauten
Summertime often means fun days spent enjoying our beautiful ocean, lakes, rivers and pools. Unfortunately, over the last three summers, 75 children in Oregon have died or nearly died from drowning. It is the second leading cause of unintentional death in kids ages 1-4.

Supervision is Key

Nearly 90% of all child drownings occur when at least one adult is present. That's why it's essential to pay extra close attention when kids are in or near the water. Designate an adult whose sole focus is to supervise the children at all times. That means: put away your phone, refrain from drinking alcohol—which can numb your alertness—and do not chitchat with friends. Focus on the kids, because their lives depend on it.

Never leave a young child alone near water, not even for a minute. If a child is under the age of 5, the supervising adult should be within arm's length, providing "touch supervision." Toddlers have large heads which make them naturally top-heavy. Combine that with their natural curiosity, fearlessness and general inability to swim or float, and even a few inches of standing water in a bucket, a toilet or bathtub, can pose a significant drowning risk. In addition:

  • Invest in properly fitting, Coast Guard-approved life vests, and have kids wear them whenever they are near water. Pool toys, water wings and other floaties are NOT reliable flotation devices and may give children and parents a false sense of security.
  • For backyard pools, install a fence that surrounds all sides, and is at least four feet tall with self-closing and self-latching gates.
  • Enroll your children in swimming lessons as early as possible.
  • Never allow children of any age to use a hot tub without a buddy (even adults should heed this warning).
  • Learn CPR and basic water rescue skills.

Never assume that a child who knows how to swim is not at risk for drowning. All kids need to be supervised in the water, no matter their skill level. Taking these precautions will reduce the risk of drowning and help ensure that you and your family have a safe summer.

by Pilar Bradshaw, M.D., F.A.A.P.

Eugene Pediatric Associates