For many families, visiting the beach, lake or pool is a staple during the summer. For some states — especially CHOC’s home in Southern California — water activities can be enjoyed all year round.
As the protectors of your kids, you want to make sure they are safe while enjoying the fun of swimming and enjoying the water. You already know about the importance of keeping an eye on your kids in the water, but what about other aspects of water safety?
In this Q&A, Michelle Lubahn, community education manager, and Amy Frias, community educator and Safe Kids Orange County coordinator at CHOC, answer your frequently asked questions about water safety.
What are the surprising signs of drowning? It’s not usually someone flailing and screaming for help, right?
Drowning is a silent event; you will not hear a child who is drowning call out for help. The primary function of our lungs is to breathe, and the secondary is to speak.
If a child does not receive enough air to breathe, they will not have the ability to cry or yell out for help. If a child is yelling out for help, they are panicking, and they should receive help immediately.
Is swallowing pool, lake, stream, river or ocean water bad for kids?
At one time or another, we all have swallowed lake, stream/river, ocean, or pool water and survived.
However, we really can’t see the dangers that are lurking in these bodies of water, and each may have their own risks, such as:
- Lakes, rivers and streams may have unseen parasites, bacteria or funguses that can cause intestinal disease. Water from these sources should be purified before drinking.
- Drinking ocean water can cause dehydration as your body tries to counter the amount of salt being ingested.
- Pool water has chemicals that are used to keep it clean, as well as bacteria that can be unsafe to swallow.
It would be difficult to say how much water from any of these sources would be OK to swallow because it would all depend on what the conditions are and how many germs are concentrated in the water ingested.
To be safe, kids should be told to try not to swallow too much water in any of these settings.
What should you do if your child gets caught in a rip current? What should you NOT do?
The first thing to do if your child is caught in a rip current is encourage them not to panic. The rip current will take them out into the water, but it will not take them under unless they panic.
Have them try and swim parallel to the beach to swim out of the rip current. Then, once safely out, have them make their way back to the beach.
Always follow lifeguard signs and stay out of the water if rip currents are present. Get more beach safety tips from CHOC.
What is the danger of using inflatable swim toys like pool rings, rafts, armbands and noodles as water-safety flotation devices?
Pool rings, rafts, armbands and noodles can be fun, but they are toys rather than safe flotation devices.
If these items are being used by children, they should be used with close adult supervision. It is very important to not rely on any swim toy to keep your child safe.
Do kids really need to wait a certain amount of time after eating to go in the water?
All of us were probably told that we needed to wait 30 to 60 minutes after eating to get back in the pool in our childhood, but this is not necessary for kids just swimming recreationally. They are free to get in the water right after eating if needed.
If your kids or tees are swimming for exercise, it may be a good idea to wait 30 to 60 minutes before swimming so they can digest their food.
Why is it so important for kids to wear a life vest on a boat — even if they know how to swim?
A Coast Guard-approved properly fitting life vest will help your child float. The life vest will also help absorb some of the impact when they first hit the water.
It’s important not to overestimate your swimming ability as you may be way out in deep, rough waters.
Why is it dangerous for kids to dive into an unknown body of water?
Diving into an unknown body of water can be dangerous because of the potential hazards that lie beneath the surface. It is recommended to dive in marked areas that are designated as safe.
Avoid areas that have a “No diving” sign, which means that the water is not safe for head-first entry. Pay attention to the current and check the water’s depth before your child jumps in.
Always pay attention to rocks, stumps or logs, and don’t go into areas of water where you can’t see what is under the surface. Have your kids buddy up and never swim alone. Always make sure that they are watched by a parent or trusted adult.
How should we treat a jellyfish sting?
Being stung by a jellyfish can be painful and scary. Jellyfish sting with thousands of very tiny stingers. If your child is stung by a jellyfish, the first thing you want them to do is get out of the water.
If you are near a lifeguard, they may be able to help. Carefully pluck visible tentacles with fine tweezers. Avoid rubbing the area and rinse with vinegar when possible. Check with your doctor about using certain creams or pain relievers that may help your child feel better. If your child is having trouble breathing or has any other severe allergic reaction occurs call 911 immediately.
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For more important tips to prevent injuries in children and teens, visit choc.org/safety.