Water safety for children
With the summer season well upon us, all the outdoor activities and summer fun is in full swing. While the summer is a fantastic time for kids to play and explore their surroundings, there are risks that come with summer activities. Most children love to play in and around water during the summer months. However, great care must be taken while kids are in the presence of water. On average, 140 people drown each year in Ireland. Steps must be taken to prevent this from happening wherever possible.
- Teach young children to swim as early as you feel is appropriate. Learning to swim is a skill that will last a lifetime, and may even save a life. Children who are comfortable in the water at an early age will be at less risk in or near water.
- Make sure that kids know how to deal with an emergency in the water. Let them know that they must try and alert a lifeguard or adult if they notice anyone in difficulty or are struggling themselves. Have them learn the phone number for emergency services. Blue light emergency services in Ireland can be reached on 112 or 999.
- Watch out for jagged rocks or broken glass on beaches. Have children wear footwear in water where there is a risk of sharp rocks or uneven surfaces underfoot.
- Make sure that kids are aware of the rules around water. Don’t allow them to jump or dive in areas where signs prohibit this behaviour. Rules are not created to stop fun being had, they are put in place in order to keep people safe. Teach your kids about appropriate behaviour in and around water.
- Ensure that kids are wearing life vests with proper head support if taking part in watersports activities or if you will be on a boat. Arm bands or inflatable water supports will not necessarily save a child from drowning.
- Remember that anyone and everyone is at risk of drowning. Young children are particularly vulnerable as they can drown in as little as 6 cm of water. Older children may overestimate their abilities or underestimate weather and water conditions. A competent swimmer is even at risk of drowning as water conditions are unpredictable and changeable.
- NEVER leave children unsupervised around water. If there are multiple children and adults in an area, take turns to watch the kids in the water. This way, adults will not accidentally be distracted and leave kids with no supervision.
- Always check how deep a pool or sea area is before allowing children to swim. Water can be deceiving and may seem like it is much more shallow than it really is. Pools and seas can have steep and unexpected drops.
- Remember that body temperature drops much quicker in water than on land, if you notice kids shivering or turning blue, remove them from the water immediately. Don’t let kids stay in the water for too long as they may be unaware that their temperature is dropping.
- Be extremely careful with inflatable water toys. Don’t allow kids to take water mattresses or lilos into the sea with them as there is a risk that they will be swept out to sea on the currents. Make sure to remove all water toys from pools in the evening time as kids often get into trouble trying to retrieve toys from pools.
- Make smart choices - don’t bring a sick child swimming and do not bring children to swim in areas where water quality is bad. Water can carry harmful bacteria and spread illness and disease. Red flags are usually flown where water quality is considered unsafe.
- Finally, remember that kids do not have to be at the beach or pool to be at risk of drowning. It is possible to drown in very small volumes of water and small patches of water are enough to cause a small child to drown. Children are at risk around puddles, ponds and ditches which may be found in the most unexpected of places.