Keeping kids safe around pools

Consumer Reports News: July 01, 2011 08:18 AM

Water and kids are a natural pairing during warm summer months. It’s important to remember, though, that swimming pools pose serious risks to children. However relaxing summer may be, you can’t ease up on vigilance when your children are around pools.

But it appears that parents who take precautions around in-ground swimming pools may relax their guard when it comes to portable pools, which include wading pools, inflatable pools and soft-sided, self-rising pools. A new study in the July 2011 issue of Pediatrics offers a timely reminder that portable aboveground swimming pools are drowning hazards.

“Drowning is a huge issue for kids under five,” said Gary Smith, M.D., , Director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH, and an author of “Pediatric Submersion Events in Portable Above-Ground Pools in the United States, 2001-2009.” “We need to focus on primary prevention. Swimming lessons might prevent drowning, but they don’t make children drown-proof.”

One problem is that parents may not understand the drowning risks when it comes to wading or inflatable pools.

“Children can drown in very small amounts of water,” said Dr. Smith. In fact, 209 children have drowned in portable pools between 2001 and 2009. During that same time period, 35 have been seriously injured, with the majority of these accidents taking place during the summer months usually in the child’s own backyard.

Municipalities that require isolation fencing and other precautions for in-ground pools can’t easily enforce barrier laws for portable pools. Most families aren’t about to install isolation fencing and protective covers for these relatively inexpensive portable pools. With above-ground, soft-sided pools, the ladders are a particular hazard. Two-thirds of children gained access to the pool through a ladder. That’s why it’s critically important to remove the ladder from an aboveground pool after each use.

Consumer Reports continues to urge consumers not to buy inflatable pools.

“There are many ways to approach a solution,” said Dr. Smith, who believes that the combined efforts of consumers, manufacturers and local governments are needed to prevent these tragedies.

Here are some recommendations for protecting your child around the pool, recognizing that nothing will protect your child entirely from drowning hazards:
• Children should never swim alone or only with other children. An adult must always be present when children are in a pool.
• Pay attention when your child is in a pool; don’t read, do chores, talk or text.
• Give your children swimming lessons and learn about water safety.
• Don’t leave toys in the pool when they’re not in use.
• Empty the wading pool when it’s not in use and store it upside down.
• Place the pool in a fenced-in area of the yard. The fencing should be non-climbable, at least 4 feet high, have a self-closing and self-latching gate that opens away from the pool. Ideally, this should be isolation fencing, which is four-sided fencing that goes around only the pool.
• Be sure there are no spaces under the fence or between uprights that are more than four inches wide.
• Have a pool cover that is a safety cover; don’t use clip-on covers for above-ground pools.
• Remove any items that could be used by a child to gain entry to the pool area.
• If possible, remove any steps or ladders leaning from the ground to the pool when the pool is not in use and keep these items locked away.
• Use door locks and alarms to prevent children from going to the pool area when there’s no adult to supervise them.
• Keep a life preserver, first aid kit, phone, and a hook to retrieve your child near the pool.
• Learn CPR.
• Teach your children to stay away from pool drains.
• Don’t allow children to wear dangly necklaces or wear their hair long and loose in or around the pool, to prevent getting entangled in a drain.

As Dr. Smith said, “This is hard to do. It’s a serious thing, and you can’t take it lightly. Kids are going to be curious.”

See our buying advice and Ratings for a wide range of products for babies and kids. Find us on Facebook and Twitter.

Merri Rosenberg

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