Cassville YMCA shares summer swimming safety tips

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

With summer here and temperatures on the rise, one of children's' favorite activities is swimming.

But, along with the fun comes risks that parents, caregivers and children must be aware of to stay safe, as just a few, simple tips could save lives.

Cassville YMCA Center Executive Dove Haney offered the following swimming safety tips used at the Cassville Aquatic Center.

* Parents are the first line of defense against drownings. Always know where your children are and keep them in sight.

* Do not participate in or allow breath-holding games. Even the best of swimmers can become unconscious and drown because of lack of oxygen to the brain.

* Do not rely on inflatable toys as flotation devices, this includes arm floaties and rings.

* Children who cannot swim should not play in water deeper than their armpits without an adult directly within arm's reach.

* Wear sunscreen even on cloudy days, as UV rays responsible for sunburn travel through clouds and haze. You may not feel the heat from the sun but your skin will still burn.

In swimming classes offered at the Cassville YMCA, lessons focus not just on the skill of learning to swim, but skills on water safety to prevent drowning, such as how to float and move through the water.

Sarah Sandoval, Cassville YMCA lifeguard manager, shared some of the safety tips taught in swimming classes.

"We help them figure out what to do in stressful situations," she said. "They practice it so much they know what to do." Sandoval said one of the skills taught is to identify hazards and potential stressful situations, for instance, what to do if you can't touch the bottom, or panic. Other examples taught are to grab onto the side of the pool, or other nearby object if in a body of water, float on your back to alert a lifeguard or caregiver, and kicking to stay afloat.

"They are things that little ones wouldn't think about, they just panic."

Sandoval said the YMCA starts teaching swimming and water safety as early as age six months.

"Ideally, the age to start would be three to four years old," she said. "I think if that window is missed, their mind or fears take over, whereas at age three or four, their logic is more in place."

Sandoval said the Cassville Aquatic Center will employ 23 certified lifeguards this summer, with about eight on staff per day.

Haney also offered tips from the National Drowning Prevention Alliance that staff keep on hand at the YMCA:

* Never leave a child unattended near water in a pool, tub, bucket or ocean. There is no substitute for adult supervision.

* Designate a "Water Watcher" to maintain constant watch over children in the pool during gatherings.

* The home should be isolated from the pool with a fence at least 60 inches tall, with a self-closing, self-latching gate. The gate should open away from the pool, and should never be propped open.

* Doors and windows should be alarmed to alert adults when opened. Doors should be self-closing and self-latching

* Power-operated pool safety covers are the most convenient and efficient. Solar/floating pool covers are not safety devices.

* Learn CPR and rescue breathing.

* Keep a phone poolside so that you never have to leave to answer the phone, and can call for help if needed.

* Keep a life-saving ring, shepherd's hook and CPR instructions mounted at poolside.

* Do no use flotation devices as a substitute for supervision.

* Never leave water in buckets or wading pools.

* If a child is missing, always check the pool first. Seconds count.

* Remove toys from in and around the pool when not in use.

* Don't use floating chlorine dispensers that look like toys.

* Instruct babysitters about pool hazards, and emphasize the need for constant supervision.

* Responsibilities of pool ownership include ensuring children in the home learn to swim and that adults know CPR.

* Do not consider children drownproof because they've had swimming lessons.

The Environmental Public Health Program offered these additional tips to ensure swimming experiences are safe ones this summer:

* Even if you're a good swimmer, never swim alone. Many drownings involve single swimmers.

* Don't rely on flotation devices or use them to take you to areas you can't swim. If you lose the raft, you could end up in a struggle.

* Wear life-jackets when boating. Even if kids can swim, life jackets should be used in all natural bodies of water, and can also be used in pools for inexperienced swimmers.

* Alcohol is a major factor in many drowning accidents. Don't swim under the influence.

* Dive only where designated. Before diving you should check for depth and obstructions and remember that feet first is far safer than head first.

* Teach your kids to swim. Studies show that children tend to learn faster the younger they are. If you don't know how to swim, it is never too late to learn.

* At your home pool remember that you are the lifeguard. NEVER leave a child alone anywhere near a pool. Make sure your pool is completely fenced and that the fence is locked and there is no access from your home to the pool when you're not there.

* Be alert and on the look-out near water. Adults watching kids in or near water should avoid distracting activities like playing cards, reading books, and talking on the phone.

Safe swimming tips can be found at http://www.poolsafely.gov/parents-families/.

For more information on swimming safety or swimming lessons, call the Cassville Aquatic Center at 417-847-8741 or the YMCA at 417-846-1535.

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