TOPEKA — It’s a warm summer day, and you’re at the beach with your kids. Your cell phone rings, and you answer it, shifting your focus from your kids to the conversation. Good idea? Not at all, according to Safe Kids Kansas, a coalition of more than 70 statewide and regional organizations and businesses dedicated to preventing unintentional injuries to Kansas children. In fact, taking your eyes off a child near water, however briefly, could be deadly. Children can get into trouble in a matter of seconds around water, so Safe Kids Kansas recommends that parents keep their eyes on their kids at all times when they are in or near the water.
Drowning is the second highest cause of unintentional death for children ages one to four and 10 to 14 in the U.S. And when it comes to water, “the safety of home” is an axiom that does not apply. In fact, most pool submersion deaths and injuries occur at a home pool.
In the U.S., approximately 830 children ages 14 and younger die each year due to unintentional drowning, and there are an estimated 3,600 injuries to children after near-drowning incidents each year. From 2000-2008 there were 129 unintentional injuries from near-drowning related incidents among Kansas kids age 14 and younger. From 2000-2009, there were 73 unintentional drowning-related deaths in Kansans age 14 years and younger. Three-quarters of these deaths were children age three and younger.
“Kids drown quickly and quietly,” says Cherie Sage, state director for Safe Kids Kansas. “A drowning child cannot cry or shout for help. The most important precaution for parents is active supervision. Simply being near your child is not necessarily supervising.”
To help keep kids safe near water, Safe Kids Kansas recommends the following precautions:
- actively supervise children in and around water. Don’t leave, even for a moment. Stay where you can see, hear, and reach kids in water. Avoid talking on the phone, preparing a meal, reading, and other distractions;
- enroll kids in swimming lessons about age four, but don’t assume swimming lessons make your child immune to drowning. There is no substitute for active supervision;
- don’t rely on inflatable swimming toys such as “water wings” and noodles. If a child can’t swim, keep him within arm’s reach;
- learn infant and child CPR. In less than two hours, parents can learn effective interventions that can give a fighting chance to a child whose breathing and heartbeat have stopped. Contact a local hospital, fire department, recreation department, or Red Cross office for information about local CPR classes; and
- keep rescue equipment, a phone, and emergency numbers by the pool.
Even a near-drowning incident can have lifelong consequences. Kids who survive a near-drowning may have brain damage, and after four to six minutes under water, the damage is usually irreversible. Although 90 percent of parents say they supervise their children while swimming, many acknowledge that they engage in other distracting activities at the same time — talking, eating, reading, or taking care of another child.
For more information about drowning and water safety, call Safe Kids Kansas at 785-296-0351 or visit www.safekids.org.
And don’t forget boating safety. The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks reminds boaters that all youngsters 12 and younger must wear personal flotation devices when onboard. For more information on boating safety, visit the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks website, www.kdwp.state.ks.us, and click “Boating.”