Swimming safety tips keep summer fun

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> By Alexandra Woolbright
> MSU Extension Service
> The Early Years Network
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> STARKVILLE, Miss. — During the summer months, few activities are more appealing than a dip in the pool to escape the heat, but safety must be the top priority.
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> According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, toddlers have been known to drown in as little as a bucket of water. Swimming pools can pose the greatest drowning risk to toddlers.
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> Despite the dangers associated with swimming, the good news is that drowning is preventable.
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> “Drowning is a silent epidemic, which is why young children need to be supervised at all times,” said Louise E. Davis, Mississippi State University Extension professor and director of the Early Years Network. “A child can slip into a pool without a sound or a splash. That’s why supervision is the most critical line of defense to prevent drowning.”
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> Parents should never leave children unattended around water, especially in or near a pool. An adult should be within arm’s length while watching toddlers, infants or weak swimmers. Even proficient young swimmers should be carefully supervised. Supervision by another young child is not an appropriate alternative.
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> Several safety measures can be taken to help ensure children are as safe as possible when in or near a pool. The Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend installing a fence that is at least 4 feet high around all sides of the pool. The fence should not have any openings or protrusions that would allow a young child to get over, under or through.
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> At public swimming areas, parents should not rely solely on lifeguards to watch children.
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> “Even if lifeguards are on duty at public pools, they are not babysitters. Parents should always keep an eye on their children,” said Jamila Taylor, registered nurse and associate director of the Early Years Network.
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> In addition to taking steps to keep children safe, parents can enroll youngsters in formal swimming lessons, which may help lower the risk of drowning in kids older than 1.
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> “After a study found an 88 percent reduction in drowning risk in children ages 1 to 4 years old who had taken swimming lessons, the American Academy of Pediatrics changed its recommendations to approve swimming lessons starting as early as 1 year of age,” Taylor said.
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> While swimming safety is important, Taylor said parents should also practice sun safety when allowing children to swim or play outside during the summer.
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> Staying adequately covered and applying sunscreen are crucial precautions for preventing sunburn. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, parents should use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
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> “The first and best line of defense against sunburn is covering up,” Taylor said. “Wear long clothing and hats, and always wear sunscreen.”
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> Babies under 6 months should be kept out of the sun. If they go outside, they should be dressed in lightweight long pants, long-sleeved shirts and wide-brimmed hats to prevent sunburn. Parents can apply a minimal amount of sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to small areas, such as the infant’s face and hands, when adequate clothing and shade are unavailable.
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> Children older than 6 months should stay in the shade whenever possible.
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> “Everyone should avoid sun exposure between the peak intensity hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.,” Taylor said. “Even older children should wear a sunscreen with at least an SPF 30 that protects against both kinds of ultraviolet radiation, labeled as UVA and UVB. It’s very important for parents to remember to reapply sunscreen to children every two hours, or after they’ve been swimming or sweating.”
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> Remembering to put swim and sun safety first can lead to a happy, healthy summer for parents and children.
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> The Early Years Network is a program housed in the MSU Extension Service and funded by the Mississippi Department of Human Services Division of Early Childhood Care and Development to provide early care and education programs and materials for teachers, directors, children and families to improve the well-being of Mississippi’s children. For more information, visit the Early Years Network Facebook page or http://www.earlyyearsnetworkms.org.
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> Optional Sidebar
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> Remember these tips this summer:
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> • Never leave children unattended in or near the pool, even for a moment.
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> • Keep rescue equipment (a life preserver and shepherd’s hook — long pole with a hook on the end) and a portable telephone near the pool.
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> • Inflatable swimming aids, such as “floaties,” are not substitutes for approved life vests. Make sure children are wearing appropriate flotation devices for their ages and swimming abilities.
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> • Never use a pool with missing or broken drain covers. Suction can trap swimmers underwater.
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> • Pool gates should open out from the pool, and they should self-close and self-latch at night.
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> • Discuss pool safety with your child and enforce guidelines during play, such as no running near water or splashing other children.
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> • Always wear a sunscreen with at least 30 SPF protection. Reapply every two hours or after swimming or sweating.
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> • Avoid sun exposure between the peak hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
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> • If your child goes missing, look for him or her at the pool first.
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> • Share safety tips with family, friends and neighbors.
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