Summer seemed to explode with unusually warm weather very early in May this year in the North Bay area. As soon as the regular school year was completed, swimming pools were filled with children wanting to enjoy their summer vacation while staying cool. Parents and others supervising the children could be seen in and around the pool. Most of these children will play happily until they are told it is time to get out, dry off and go home. But, not every child’s water fun will end this way.
According to the USA Swimming Foundation, from Memorial Day to Labor Day 2017, at least 163 children younger than 15 years old fatally drowned in pools or spas and 112 of these were younger than five. How is it possible for a child to drown while someone is sitting close by? How is it possible while a mother or father is listening and watching for any sign of trouble?
The Silence of Drowning is not heard or seen. The love and concern for a child do not change this. The child’s panic does not change this.
Children playing in the water are noisy. They splash…squeal with delight…call out, “Watch me!”. When they are quiet, someone needs to be right there and find out why.
If a person is drowning, people think they will call out, “HELP!!!” This only happens in the movies since when someone, especially a young child, is drowning, the mouth sinks below the surface then briefly reappears above. Exhale…inhale…call HELP…not enough time before the mouth sinks again.
As the child sinks below the water, the arms may extend forward but he can not use them to move forward or reach for an object or person. Kicking does not happen either so there are no splashes from the arms or feet. A child may struggle for only a few seconds before going under.
If a child goes under, water is always swallowed. Someone may reach the child, lift him up and the coughing and spitting of water begin. We now know there is still a possibility of delayed drowning. If the swallowed water also entered the lungs, it will not necessarily be coughed out. It continues to interfere with the lungs’ ability to use oxygen and remove carbon dioxide. Death by asphyxiation can happen up to 48 hours later.
Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, babysitters…how can you keep a child safe in the pool?
- Stay close by. How far can you move in 5-10 seconds?
- Keep the child in sight. Close the book, hide the mobile device so it does not distract you and give the child your complete attention.
- Secure each child in a life vest.
Read all tags and labels on the life vests and water safety equipment. Know when you are buying something to ensure water safety and when you are buying a water toy. This mother of twin girls found what she needed…a zipper in the back so her active, water-loving girls cannot remove their water vest/wings by themselves.
Want more information? The internet has it. Search for child water safety, child drownings, delayed drowning, the silence of drowning and life vests.
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Enjoy a fun and safe summer. MCW