Swim safely this summer

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Tuesday was the first day of summer. Although it has felt like summer for several weeks now, seeing the designation on the calendar makes me realize that we only have around a dozen weeks until fall arrives. We only have a few more months to take part in lake outings and swimming and all the other fun warm weather activities I have enjoyed since childhood.

This is the first summer James and I will celebrate with Sophie, and we are both very excited about teaching our little girl how to swim. James learned to swim in Flat Creek, and I learned at the Cassville Pool. I will never forget learning to blow bubbles underwater, and I still remember how much courage it took to jump off the high dive the first time. In my young mind, taking that step off the diving board was essentially the same as graduating from swimming class.

Last weekend, as we celebrated Father's Day with my dad, my parents enthusiastically spoke about purchasing a small kiddie pool for Sophie. Although neither of them swim, they were adamant that both my brothers and I learned, and I know they are just as excited about Sophie learning to swim.

This week, I happened upon a headline in the Joplin Globe that read, "Child dies in portable pool every five days." As a new parent, this caught my eye. The article cited the journal Pediatrics, which recently published a study by Independent Safety Consulting. According to the study, over 200 children have drowned in portable pools since 2001. The study included everything from wading pools, like the one my parents would like to purchase for Sophie, to soft-sided pools that can reach depths of four feet.

These are frightening statistics. My first thought after reading the article was, "How can I protect my baby?" The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Red Cross, the YMCA, the Home Safety Council and the National Safety Council all offer water and pool safety information. I also found information on the Safe Kids USA website, which is safekids.org.

Safe Kids USA offers the following tips, which could help prevent child drownings:

* Active supervision. Adults should refrain from talking on the telephone, chatting with others or reading while their child is swimming or playing in or near water.

* Barriers. Never leave children alone near any body of water, even if it is only a few inches deep. Install fences with locking gates around pools and cover hot tubs. Remember that bath tubs, toilets and even buckets of water can pose a risk to children.

* Training. Attend a CPR certification class, take part in swimming lessons if you have never learned to swim and enroll your children in swimming classes.

* Equipment. Do not allow children on boats or other water vessels without a life jacket. More than 700 people drown in boating accidents each year, and 90 percent of those who die were not wearing life jackets.

Swimming was one of my favorite activities as a youngster. I hope Sophie enjoys it as much as I did, and I hope I can keep her safe as she learns. I encourage area parents to use the above tips to help make this summer safer for their children too. Happy swimming!

Lindsay Reed