Keep children safe throughout swimming season

Posted at 6:29 AM, May 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-25 11:52:32-04

May 22-28, 2017 is designated as Healthy and Safe Swimming Week.

Drowning is the second leading cause of injury-related death in children under age 14 with about 1,000 deaths occurring each year from unintentional drowning in the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

According to Neha Vyas, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic, one of the first steps to prevent accidental drowning is to teach children how to swim.

"It's always good to make sure that children know how to swim," said Dr. Vyas. "Children as young as a few months old can get used to being in the water; they have special swim schools nowadays so that children can learn to blow bubbles, and just get used to the water."

However, Dr. Vyas also reminds parents that swimming lessons can never take the place of adult supervision.

Especially in situations where there is alcohol involved, like a backyard picnic, she said it's important to make sure that an adult, who is not drinking, is designated to watch kids who are swimming.

A recent national poll shows that parents often underestimate the risk of drowning in pools where no lifeguard is present. Thirty-seven percent of parents polled said they would allow their child to swim unsupervised in a home, hotel or neighborhood pool.

Dr. Vyas said that even if a child knows how to swim, it does not mean that they are not at risk of drowning.

A drowning can happen any time and without warning and contrary to what many people think, it often doesn't involve splashing and calling for help. A drowning often happens silently and quickly.

"They occur very rapidly and they occur without warning, so it's very important to have your eyes on the pool, or the body of water and not necessarily just your ears," said Dr. Vyas.

Health officials from the CDC say it's also important for all swimmers to be aware of Recreational Water Illnesses (RWI), which are caused by germs from contaminated bodies of water. RWI can result in symptoms such as gastrointestinal illness, rashes, ear and respiratory infections.