May 25, 2009

Be safe by the water

Posted: 03:00 PM ET

With warm weather right around the corner, it's just a matter of time before families head to the water - be that a beach, lake or pool. If you have little ones, keeping them safe by the water is a top concern. I remember battling with by first son about eating the sand at the beach, but that concern would be supplanted when he'd jump up and run toward the waves – invariably doing a head plant into the surf. Kids are often fearless, and knowing how to protect them by the water is a full time job. According to the CDC, drowning is the leading cause of death from injury in children ages 1 to 4. The Mayo Clinic offers some drowning prevention tips to help keep your family safe this summer.

swimming lesson

1) Little swimmers. Parents often wonder about the best age to enroll their children in swimming lessons. Unfortunately there is conflicting research on this. As of now, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) doesn't recommend formal lessons before age 4, but the AAP is in the process of updating their policy on drowning prevention. The new guidelines should be released next year. Some swimming organizations offer water survival lessons to children as young as 6 months old. Babies and young children are taught skills to help them roll over and float if they ever find themselves face down in the water. A word of caution: some experts voice concern that early lessons may give parents a false sense of security about their child's swimming ability, leading to less supervision by and in the water. Check with your pediatrician to find out when your child is ready for lessons.

2) Fence it in. Swimming lessons are not enough to prevent accidental drownings. If you have a pool providing protection from the water may be a matter of life and death. Surrounding your pool with a fence is imperative, and make sure your gate has a high latch or an alarm. There are also underwater pool alarms that sound when something hits the water. According to the CDC, most pool drowning in young children occur when the child has been out of a parent’s or caregiver’s sight for less than 5 minutes.

3) On guard. Never leave your child unattended by the pool. If the phone rings, the dryer buzzes or the delivery man arrives, take your child out of the pool and keep him with you until you are ready to focus on him again. And don't leave pool toys in the water between swims: your child may fall in reaching for a toy. Unfortunately more than 85 percent of drownings among children ages 1 to 4 are pool-related.

And finally when your kids get a little older and can swim on their own, make sure they have a buddy and don't swim alone.

Health Minute airs daily on HLN from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET weekdays

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Clark Howard helps you become a wise consumer. We know you're busy, and that's why Clark's tips are quick and effective. He'll arm you with the information you need to make smart choices. During these tough economic times, Clark wants to help you save more, spend less and avoid getting ripped off!