Swimming Pool Safety
Amy Movius, MD
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
The glorious warm weather has sent many people heading to the pool, making this a good time to review swimming pool safety, especially for children. Drowning is a leading cause of accidental death in children in the US. As if that isn’t bad enough, for every child who drowns there are as many as 4 more who suffered a "near drowning" event. "Near-drowning" means the victim lived more than 24 hours after the submersion, not that they actually survived. Of the children that do survive a "near drowning", many are severely and permanently disabled.
Drowning has the most seasonal variation of all accidental fatal injuries in children. Unsurprisingly, most occur in the summer months (May – August), and are clustered on weekends and during the afternoon. Children less than 5yrs old are most likely to drown in a swimming pool. Anyone who owns or is thinking of getting a swimming pool needs to do all they can to protect users and visitors. In addition, ALL families with children should be aware of proper pool safety since children certainly drown at the pools of other people, such as extended family members and friends. Bluntly put, if a residential swimming pool is not safely secured, a child should never be present at that home.
Swimming pool drowning can be greatly decreased by following some preventative steps.
SUPERVISION!!!! Small children in or around water should be under "touch supervision" at all times. This means that an adult should always be within an arms length and have NO other responsibilities. This includes answering the phone, sorting mail, getting snacks, etc.
2. A 4 SIDED FENCE should surround the pool. Most pool drowning happens when a child enters the pool through an unprotected pool side; usually attached to the house or yard. Often, the caregiver reports the child being out of sight for just a moment. Horribly, drowning is usually "silent", without screaming or splashing, so the provider has no other indication anything bad has happened. Not all fences are the same and the safest 4 sided fences have the following features:
- They have vertical bars, which are easier to see through and harder to scale than chain link.
- They are at least 4 feet high.
- The space between the fence and ground, and between the fence bars themselves, is no more than 4 inches.
- The gate is self-closing and opens away from the pool.
3. Pool alarms and rigid pool covers can provide another level of safety to swimming pools. They are not a substitute for touch supervision and a 4 sided fence. Non-rigid pool covers should not be used as they may increase the risk of drowning since children can get trapped beneath them if they fall through.
4. CPR CERTIFICATION should be obtained by every pool owner. Children should never be at a pool without a CPR certified person. Bystander CPR (before the ambulance arrives) has a very positive effect on survival and function after a submersion event. Likewise, a telephone and life preservers (not inflatable toys) should be poolside to expedite rescue, if needed.
Prevention of Drowning in Infants, Children and Adolescents. American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement, PEDIATRICS Vol. 112 No.2 August 2003
Pool Safety for Children. The Injury Prevention Program (TIPP), American Academy of Pediatrics. 02/07