The drowning prevention strategies every Southwest Florida parent needs to follow
We’re surrounded by water here in Southwest Florida. Whether you have a pool in your backyard or like to spend time on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, local parents need to make water safety a top priority. Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death among children between ages 1 and 4, and it’s the third-leading cause of death among children in general. But it’s completely preventable. Effective drowning prevention results when safety precautions are taken, rules about the water are enforced, and parents have the know-how to handle emergencies.
Sally Kreuscher, Safe Kids coordinator at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, offers her top tips for parents to keep their kids safe around the water.
Always supervise your children. Whenever kids are in the water, an adult needs to be supervising. “Just because your child has had some swim lessons, it doesn’t mean they’re a competent swimmer,” says Kreuscher. “A child should never swim alone.”
Supervision is especially important at large family gatherings, where accidents often happen. “Everyone assumes someone else is watching the children, when in fact no one is,” she says. “You need to have a water watcher who accepts responsibility for supervising the children at all times. And this person isn’t drinking, looking at their phone or actively conversing with other people. They’re really being responsible for the children in the water at all times.”
Think beyond the pool and beach. Drownings can happen inside the home too, and babies can drown in as little as one inch of water. So parents should never leave a child alone in the bathtub, even if it’s just for a minute or two.
“Prepare yourself by bringing a towel into the bathroom before you put your child in the water,” says Kreuscher. “If the
doorbell rings or you have to tend to another child, take your child out of the tub. Never walk away, even for a minute.”
Build in barriers. This means things like pool fences and alarms, plus locks on any doors leading out to the pool area. Inside the house, keep doors to bathrooms and laundry rooms, as well as toilet lids, closed.
Learn CPR. Knowing how to administer the lifesaving technique makes a big difference in a worst-case scenario. “The earlier CPR can be done, the higher the chances of survival,” says Kreuscher. “That’s why it’s important to do CPR right away and for everyone to know how.” Lee Health offers CPR classes throughout the year. Go to leehealth.org/classes and then the Women and Children tab for more information.
Use the proper equipment. Choose U.S. Coast Guardapproved life jackets when boating or when a flotation device is desired for ocean swimming. “Blow-up water wings or other kinds of things like that won’t keep kids from drowning,” says Kreuscher. “They’re not official flotation devices.”
The Sea Tow Foundation organizes life jacket loaner stations around the country where people can borrow life jackets at no cost. To find a location in Southwest Florida, visit boatingsafety.com.
Don’t expect a big scene. A child who is drowning might not be as obvious as you’d expect. “Drowning doesn’t look like people think it looks like,” says Kreuscher. “It’s not like in the movies. It’s silent and quick.”
“Just because your child has had some swim lessons, it doesn’t mean they’re a competent swimmer. A child should never swim alone.”
—Sally Kreuscher, Safe Kids coordinator at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida