The moment your new infant rests gently in your arms for the first time, it becomes clear your life has changed forever. In the midst of your awe at this tiny little miracle, you realize that this person is completely reliant on you, your decisions, and all of the choices you will make on their behalf in the future. In this moment you become a parent.
As a parent, we shoulder the roles of leader, disciplinarian, hero, and protector, just to name a few. As we look at the world from a parent’s perspective, creating a safe and loving environment to raise our children becomes a lifestyle of nurturing creativity and confidence, learning how to live in the moment and plan for the future simultaneously, and evaluating risks – everywhere.
Some risks can be mitigated relatively easily, like teaching your children to wash their hands regularly to prevent illness, or picking up their toys so that no one trips and falls. Other dangers may seem more subtle or require more strategic planning. One of these dangers is the risk of drowning.
Drowning remains the leading cause of accidental death in children under the age of 5 and it ranks number two for children ages 1-14. For each drowning death, it is estimated that as many as four near-drowning or delayed drowning incidences occur. Up to 20 percent of these victims sustain severe, permanent neurological damage. In the United States, drowning occurs in every economic group, social class, culture, gender and race.
Drowning is a deadly threat and a silent killer.
Most drowning incidences could have been prevented. A few ways you can reduce your child’s risk immediately:
• Always supervise your child around water! Children under 13 months old are most likely to drown in bathtubs, buckets, and other standing liquid around the house (it takes less than an inch). Children ages 1-4 years old are more at risk than any other age group – they are most likely to drown in pools and 19 percent of all childhood drowning deaths occur in public pools with certified lifeguards present.
• Install an effective barrier around your own pool and intentionally reduce access around the barrier. Children are very resourceful and have been known to build their way around barriers utilizing planters, chairs, etc.
Learn CPR. Seconds count. This one skill can make the difference between a drowning victim and a near-drowning survivor.
• Learn to swim. For children ages 1-4 years old, learning to swim reduces the risk of drowning. It also builds their confidence so diligent parental supervision is still required. Effective learn-to -swim programs will teach safety skills first. Basic skills like blowing bubbles, being able to back float independently, and the ability to identify an exit and execute a way out of the pool can save your child’s life.
Can you really afford not to learn CPR or teach your child to swim? It’s simply a matter of life and death.
There are many resources with more information on how to reduce the drowning risk for your child including the CDC, the Drowning Prevention Coalition, or any of Tucson’s local swim schools.
(Editor’s Note: Marydale Moore is a parent, drowning prevention advocate and owner of POPPKiDZ.)