Sunday, January 11, 2015

Drowning: The Real Risk

Imagine you're getting ready to come home from the hospital and you don't have your infant car seat. You just haven't gotten around to it. Maybe you'll get one when baby turns 3. No biggie, just hold your baby on your lap, or strap them into a seat belt, right? 

This is obviously absurd (not to mention illegal). Parents today are well aware of the importance of car seat safety, in fact many of us consider ourselves "die hard" on the issue. My sister (mother of 6) is known for doing safety checks on her friends car seats...ripping them out of their cars and reinstalling them herself. She prides herself on making sure that if you try to wiggle the car seat, the entire car should shake -- not the car seat itself. We're all just keeping our children safe, you know just "in case".

While parents are "die hard" on the issue of car seat safety, many are "missing the boat" on an even bigger threat to saving their child's life: water safety.

Drowning is the #1 cause of accidental death for children under the age of 5 in the US. 

That's right. Believe it or not, your child has a greater risk of drowning than they do of dying in a car accident.  "But we live in an urban city..." you say "...we don't own a swimming pool, so there's no real risk." This is like saying you don't need a car seat for your child because "We're safe drivers". 

Children drown everyday in all different bodies of water: buckets, toilets, bath tubs, fountains, koi ponds, hot tubs, etc. I myself have witnessed first hand a child falling head first into a fountain at a shopping mall. Another devastating example of this is when a local toddler drowned in a fountain in downtown San Francisco, with dozens of adults including a nanny and parent in the vicinity (click here for article). 

Accidents accidents, drowning accidents, fires, you name it. But the greatest risk of them all is drowning (click here for CDC report).

Formal swim lessons can reduce the risk of drowning up to 88%, according to the CDC.

What can you do as a parent to help protect your child from drowning? At La Petite Baleen we promote the Safer 3:
  • Safer Kids: Safer Kids covers the behaviors necessary for both kids and parents to promote water safety. These water safety tips include constant responsible supervision by adults, along with swimming skills attained through ongoing qualified instruction for kids.
  • Safer Water: Safer Water means identifying where the risks are with any body of water (bathtubs, pools, spas, lakes, rivers or oceans) and learning how to reduce those risks. For example installing barriers such as isolation fencing around a backyard pool would reduce the risk of unauthorized access to the pool by young children.
  • Safer Response: Safer Response overviews emergency response techniques and emergency action plans as a path to water safety. Learning cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first aid, as well as having a phone by the pool at all times, are just a few of the water safety tips covered here.

Often times we hear parents say, "He's just not ready for swim lessons yet" or "He cried in class so we'll just wait until he's older". Our response to that is, what do you do when your child protests being strapped into his car seat? We've all been know the back arching, kicking and screaming fit that often ensues when a toddler doesn't want to be strapped in. What's your response to this as a parent? "Oh, we'll just let him bounce around the back seat until he's older"? I think not. 

The same attitude must apply when it comes to swim lessons. Here at LPB we specialize in making swim lessons and safety fun. We use games, songs and LOTS of toys to distract our young students. Before you know it, they're happily swimming. While it sometimes involves some tears and protest, the payoff is priceless when it comes to your child's safety. 

That's right, swim lessons are just as important as buckling your child into a car seat. 

Now, we're not claiming that swim lessons alone will prevent your child from drowning. Just like carseats cannot prevent your child from being in a car accident, swim lessons are a layer of protection in preventing a drowning. Again, the principles of the Safer 3 must be put into place to eliminate risk of drowning.

Each May, we host our annual "Summer Safety Week" where we educate parents and students on the risks of drowning. We discuss different bodies of water, give safety reminders, discuss barriers with parents and rules with students. For more on our summer safety week, click here.

Together with our community, we must commit to making our children safer around water. It starts with you, the parent. Make the right decision when it comes to your child's safety, enroll in lessons today.

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