Home and Community Safety & Health Safety COVID-19

Prevent drownings: Pediatrician group urges ‘layers of protection’ during COVID-19 pandemic

Photo: Marilyn Nieves/iStockphoto

Itasca, IL — The American Academy of Pediatrics is asking parents and caregivers to be extra mindful of keeping children and teens safe around water this summer, especially as “children spend more time at home with caregivers who may be distracted by work and other responsibilities.”

According to AAP, drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 4. A May 2019 report from the Consumer Product Safety Commission says an estimated 363 children drowned in pools and spas each year between 2014 and 2016, and nearly three-quarters of those victims were younger than 5.

Water safety recommendations from AAP:

  • Make sure all children and adults known how to swim, and adults and older children know CPR.
  • Maintain close, constant, attentive supervision around water. Assign an adult “water watcher” who shouldn’t be distracted by work, socializing or chores.
  • Empty all buckets, bathtubs and wading pools immediately after use. Keep bathroom doors closed and use toilet locks if you have young children.
  • Surround pools with a four-sided fence with a self-closing, self-latching gate. Door and window locks, pool covers, and pool alarms also can be used as barriers to help prevent access to pools.
  • Use Coast Guard-approved life jackets when swimming in open water or riding on watercraft.

“As children are at home more due to social isolation recommendations, they may have more access to pools, bathtubs and other sources of water – all of which pose a drowning risk,” Benjamin Hoffman, chair of the AAP Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention, said in a press release. “Families may also be visiting lakes, rivers or other open bodies of water as a way to get outdoors while still maintaining physical distance to reduce the spread of coronavirus.”

Acknowledging that swim lessons may have been postponed as a result of the pandemic, AAP offers a toolkit that includes videos and tip sheets on drowning prevention. “We have to make sure that we plan layers of protection to keep children and teens safe around water, wherever they are,” Hoffman said.

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