Health: Pools can be very dangerous for children

By Debbie Howes Fleming Published:

Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death in children ages 1-14. While motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of these injury-related deaths, drowning is the second leading cause of death. Each year in the United States, nearly 400 children between the ages of 1-14 drown in pools or spas.

At 66 percent, the largest percentage of deaths from drowning occurs in children between the ages of one and three. More than 5,200 children are treated in emergency rooms for near-drowning related accidents.

The extremely hot temperatures affecting the U.S. sent thousands of people seeking relief to pools and waterways. Experts agree that adult supervision of children’s water activities is a critical safety factor. Children should not be left unattended around water. Most drowning accidents occur because of a brief lapse of adult supervision.

The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends that children should be within arm’s reach of an adult anywhere there is a body of water whether it is a bathtub, a pool, a spa, a lake or even a bucket of water.

During the week of July 22-29, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission asks that families take simple steps to “pool safely.”

Knowing how to swim is the first basic of water safety. It may not prevent drowning, but it increases the chances of survival around water. Learn how to swim and teach your children to swim. Become knowledgeable about basic water emergency procedures and learn CPR.

Most drowning and near-drowning related accidents occur at home pools or in the pools of family and friends. Pool fencing that completely surrounds a pool and has a gate that is both self-closing and secured with a lock are the most effective tools in preventing drowning in private pools. To be effective, the fencing must surround the pool with no access to the pool available from within a home. It should be at least four feet high and constructed of materials that discourage climbing.

There are additional levels of protection that will decrease the likelihood of a child gaining unsupervised access to a pool or spa. These protective measures include pool and spa covers that secure with locks and alarms that detect movement in the water.

Any door that leads directly to a pool should be equipped with motion detecting sensors and alarms.

An additional source of concern is pool and spa drains. The Virginia Graeme Brown act of 2007 requires that all public facilities have anti-entrapment drain covers to prevent the type of accident that claimed the life of seven-year-old Brown.

Installation of anti-entrapment drain covers and making sure the covers are in good working order is another layer of safety that privately owned pool and spa owners should adopt.

Since more than 80 percent of drowning accidents occur in private pools or spas, learn to “pool safely.” For more safety tips and information, visit

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