Year-Round Water Safety Reminders

By Justin Pick, pediatric resident at CHOC Children’s

Living in Southern California affords us some of the best weather in the world, with year-round access to beaches, pools, and hot tubs. However, these privileges come with risk. Drowning is the second leading cause of death in children between the ages of five and 24. Even though summer may technically be over, keep in mind these year-round water safety reminders to ensure your children are safe around water.

Above all, it is most important to learn how to swim by finding a swim class nearest to your home.

Pool Safety

 Remind your teen about the importance of swimming in a pool with an on-duty lifeguard who is adequately trained in CPR.

  • CPR training for all teenagers and caregivers is important in the event of an emergency. Locations for training include: hospitals, The Red Cross, YMCA, YWCA
  • Avoid running around the wet edges of pools to avoid falls with severe head injuries.
  • Drink plenty of fluids because people often do not realize how much they are sweating, even when temperatures have dipped after summer months. On a typical day, kids should drink the number of 8 oz. cups of water equal to their age. For example, a five-year-old should drink five 8-oz. glasses of water every day.
  • Consistently reapply sunscreen since the sand and ocean can act to concentrate the rays of the sun. Everyone should wear sunscreen whenever they’re outdoors, all year long.
  • Always have access to a phone with cell reception to dial 9-1-1 in the event of an emergency.

Open Water Safety

 Never swim alone in the ocean! Even good swimmers need buddies.

  • Know your swimming ability and do not try to swim in deep water (where your feet are unable to touch the ground) if it is not safe for you to do so.
  • Pay attention to warning signs in the area. Only swim in designated swim areas.
  • Stick to beaches with an on-duty life-guard
  • Avoid diving into water in which the depth is unknown or if there are any potential objects (i.e. rocks, debris) that may cause injury.
  • Avoid swimming near fast moving waters, especially rip tides. If trapped in a rip tide, swim parallel to the shore until you have escaped the rip tide and then adjust your course and safely swim to shore.

Boating Safety

  • Be mindful of other drivers who may be under the influence of alcohol or other substances.
  • Always obey local boating laws
  • Review the boating safety manual in the event of a capsizing
  • Always have a cell phone in case of emergencies
  • Be aware of the direction of land; we recommend always having land within vision.
  • Always have access to life preservers on the vessel in the event of an emergency
  • Always let someone know where you intend on going in the event of an emergency, so an efficient search and rescue can be initiated.

Download your copy of CHOC’s guide to drowning prevention.

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The Dangers of Secondary Drowning

By Dr. Georgie Pechulis, pediatric hospitalist at CHOC Children’s

Dr. Georgie Pechulis

With Memorial Day weekend right around the corner, it generally signals the beginning of summer and the opening of the much-anticipated pool season. Our kids will undoubtedly be awaiting their water time with endless excitement, and we as parents will do our best to keep them safe. Amidst our best efforts to educate ourselves and our children on water safety, drowning still tends to peak in these summer months. Secondary drowning is another danger, albeit rare, that parents should be aware of.

What is secondary drowning?

We as pediatricians actually don’t like this term, since it creates a lot of confusion.

Drowning is defined by the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation as, “a process resulting in primary respiratory impairment from submersion/immersion in a liquid medium.” So what does that mean? Any event from being in water that causes problems breathing, whether it is primary, secondary, wet or dry, or any other forms of drowning.

Secondary or delayed drowning refers to the phenomenon of water inhalation, followed by presumed recovery, and respiratory problems that appear afterwards. Often the story involves being underwater or inhaling water with immediate symptoms that appear to go away.  However, vague symptoms persist and cause breathing problems long after the event, to the surprise of parents. It is a subset of drowning and thankfully, is relatively rare.

Here are a few of the most common questions I receive from parents about secondary drowning:

My child coughed after accidentally swallowing some water- should I bring him to the ER?

Fortunately, most simple aspiration events are not serious. Parents will need to look for the persistence of symptoms. In other words, you’ll notice your child hasn’t returned to his or her normal breathing or behavior after the incident.

  • Breathing: Your child is working hard to breathe by using his belly muscles or if you notice her nostrils flaring or head bobbing. Also, look out for persistent coughing even long after the event, and darkness or blue coloring of the lips.
  • Behavior: You notice your child is not acting right. He or she is lethargic, irritable, or not their usual self. This will be different from what you’re normally used to. Use your parental instinct.

My child seemed fine. What happened?

If water irritates the lungs, it can cause inflammation, fluid buildup, and difficulty for the body to receive the oxygen that you breathe. Sometimes these effects happen long after the event has occurred. We expect these symptoms to show within 24 hours after aspiration of water.

 If you have any of these concerns, please seek medical attention with your pediatrician or even the Emergency Department if your child appears in distress.

How can I keep my child safe?

As always, the best way to keep your child safe is to monitor them at all times in the water and to ensure they do not have any access to potential water hazards.  This includes not only pools, but filled bathtubs, hot tubs, lakes, koi ponds, and fountains.

  • Never leave them unsupervised. For toddlers or any children who are not able to swim, an adult should be within arm’s reach at all times. Never leave the child unattended, even if it is to quickly run in the house and grab something. Commonly, drowning occurs when caregivers briefly leave the child unattended to grab cameras, phones, food or drink, etc. Appoint dedicated and qualified adult supervisors to substitute watch if you need to leave.
  • Supervise without distraction. Your job as the supervisor is to do so without distraction. No cell phones, no reading materials, and no distracting conversations. Those brief lapses of attention are when incidents can occur. It’s an important job to supervise your kids in the pool and really key to ensuring your child’s safety.
  •  Drowning is usually silent. The typical drowning scenario in a movie usually depicts arm flailing, screaming, and water splashing in all directions. The truth is that most drowning occurs without noise. Often the child struggles quietly and slips under the water without a sound. Always be alert and on the watch, for it may not be obvious.
  • Be aware of your environment. If you are visiting a family or friend’s home, be aware of any potential water dangers nearby. Homes that do not usually have children often have open access to pools, spas, and natural bodies of water such as ponds and lakes. Children are curious and will want to explore new environments. Be alert.

As a hospital pediatrician and as a mother, often I hear the stories of caregivers shifting their attention to engage in conversation, running in the house to grab something, or other forms of quick distractions that lead to these accidents. If I could ask anything, it’s that we just take time to really focus on protecting our kids by being their undistracted monitor.  We want them to enjoy many endless summers of water time to come.

Related articles: 

  • Year-Round Water Safety Reminders
    By Justin Pick, pediatric resident at CHOC Children’s Living in Southern California affords us some of the best weather in the world, with year-round access to beaches, pools, and hot ...
  • 4 Water Safety Tips for a Safe Summer
    As temperatures start to rise, your family may be spending more time at the pool or the beach. Keep these water safety tips, straight from CHOC Children’s community education department, ...
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4 Water Safety Tips for a Safe Summer

As temperatures start to rise, your family may be spending more time at the pool or the beach. Keep these water safety tips, straight from CHOC Children’s community education department, top of mind to ensure your family has a safe and worry-free summer.

  1. Assign a water watcher

Children need supervision at all times near the water, even if there is a lifeguard on duty. Designate an adult who knows how to swim and how to perform CPR as a ‘water watcher.’ Accidents often happen during a lapse in supervision, rather than during a total lack of supervision, says Amy Frias, CHOC community educator. CHOC offers ‘Water Watcher’ tags that can be worn by the assigned adult. If your water watcher leaves the water area, even for a short time, have them first pass along the ‘Water Watcher’ tag and duties to another responsible adult. To request a tag, contact the community education department.

water watcher tag

  1. Never assume your child is drown-proof

Don’t give your child a pass on safety protocols even if he has had swimming lessons and is an experienced swimmer.  A child can drown in as little as two inches of water. Keep an eye on all bodies of water, such as bathtubs, toilets, buckets, ice chests, and dog dishes.

  1. Be aware of beach hazards

Watch for rip current and weather condition signs at the beach. Swimming in the ocean should only be allowed when there is a lifeguard on duty. Never swim alone- even good swimmers need buddies.

  1. Establish multiple layers of protection

Kids can get into things quickly, even if an adult is distracted for just a few seconds. Fences, gates, alarms and covers for your pool and spa are just a few ways that you can reinforce your home as a safe environment.

Download a tip sheet with more water safety information.

KohlsCares

Related posts:

  • Year-Round Water Safety Reminders
    By Justin Pick, pediatric resident at CHOC Children’s Living in Southern California affords us some of the best weather in the world, with year-round access to beaches, pools, and hot ...
  • The Dangers of Secondary Drowning
    By Dr. Georgie Pechulis, pediatric hospitalist at CHOC Children’s With Memorial Day weekend right around the corner, it generally signals the beginning of summer and the opening of the much-anticipated pool ...
  • CHOC Experts Discuss Drowning Prevention
    Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional, accidental death in children, two CHOC Children’s experts tell “American Health Journal.” Drowning is completely preventable, and CHOC offers a robust water safety ...

CHOC Experts Discuss Drowning Prevention

Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional, accidental death in children, two CHOC Children’s experts tell “American Health Journal.”

Drowning is completely preventable, and CHOC offers a robust water safety program, say Dr. Paul Lubinsky, a CHOC critical care specialist, and Michelle Lubahn, a community education coordinator at CHOC.

Learn more about drowning and its prevention in “American Health Journal,” a television program that airs on PBS and other national network affiliates that reach more than 40 million households.

Each 30-minute episode features six segments with a diverse range of medical specialists discussing a full spectrum of health topics. For more information, visit www.discoverhealth.tv.

Paul Lubinksy, M.D., served his internship at Groote Schuur Hospital and the Red Cross Children’s Hospital in Capetown, South Africa. He served as chief resident at UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange followed by a pediatric critical care fellowship at CHOC Children’s.

More posts about water safety:

  • Year-Round Water Safety Reminders
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  • The Dangers of Secondary Drowning
    By Dr. Georgie Pechulis, pediatric hospitalist at CHOC Children’s With Memorial Day weekend right around the corner, it generally signals the beginning of summer and the opening of the much-anticipated pool ...
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Splash Course: Kids and Drowning

This article was featured in the Orange County Register on August 12, 2013 and was written by Shaleek Wilson. View the full feature article and more at choc.org/health.

CHOC_08-13-2013_drowning_halfBathtubs and Buckets

A common misconception about drowning is that kids are only in danger in big bodies of water. Not true. It only takes 1 inch of water for a child to drown, making common household containers like buckets, bathtubs and large pet water bowls a hazard.

To Avoid a Life-Threatening Incident, Make the Following a Habit:

  • Never leave a child alone in the bathroom, not even for a minute
  • Empty containers with liquids
  • Close bathroom doors and install child-proof door locks
  • Keep toilet seats closed or locked

Water Safety 101

When school is out, there’s nothing children love more than to splash around in the pool. But before the fun begins, safety should come first. “If you’re a parent, you need to be trained in CPR,” says Dr. Anas. Whenever your child is in the water, assign a “Water Watcher,” to monitor the water and the child.

Floaties and Fences

Flotation devices are not a substitute for watchful eyes. If a child cannot swim, they’re at risk for drowning, says Dr. Anas. More than 1,000 children die each year from unintentional drownings.

Pool owner safety:

  • Install a four-sided, non-climbable fence with self-latching gate
  • Use pool covers; power-operated options are best
  • Alarm doors and windows leading to pool

Look Out!

Known as the “silent killer,” drowning happens quietly, quickly, and usually out of sight. When your child is in the water, someone should always be assigned to watch. “What frequently happens is someone watching a child gets distracted and the child wanders off into the pool,” says Dr. Anas. “By the time the caretaker notices, it’s too late.” Make sure you and your child’s caregiver are aware of potential pool hazards.

Fast Facts

  • The time it takes for a child to lose consciousness after water submersion: 120 Seconds
  • Percentage of drowning victims who are out of their caregiver’s sight for 5 minutes or less: 75%
  • Percentage of children who drowned aged 4 and younger: 46%

 

Dr. Nick Anas
Dr. Nick Anas
CHOC Children”s Pediatrician-in-Chief

PHYSICIAN FOCUS: DR. NICK ANAS

Dr. Anas is CHOC’s Pediatrician-in-Chief. He serves as clinical Professor for Pediatrics for the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California Los Angeles and as Associate Clinical Professor, Pediatrics, at UCI School of Medicine. He completed a fellowship at the University of Rochester in Pediatric Pulmonology and Critical Care. Dr. Anas’ philosophy of care: “There’s no place for ‘good’ or ‘average’ care. Families in our community have to be able to go to sleep at night knowing their children are safe.”

EDUCATION:
West Virginia University School of Medicine

BOARD CERTIFICATIONS:
Pediatric Critical Care and Pediatric Pulmonology

More about Dr. Anas

 

Learn more about Drowning Prevention and Emergency Services at CHOC Children’s.