Different waters mean different dangers

Know the potential hazards and how to use caution

Summer has arrived once again. It’s time for barbecues, vacations, and fun in the sun. One of the more popular ways to enjoy the season is by relaxing in and around pools, lakes, or the ocean. However, many hazards lurk within these waters, especially for children. Before making travel plans and packing swimsuits for your child, be aware of the hazards and become familiar with the safety tips below.

Swimming safety

Swimming is a way of life in Florida; in fact, our very own Polk County has 381 lakes. Therefore, it is critical that our children learn to swim to stay safe in the water. Swimming readiness depends on several factors, including developmental abilities, emotional development, and the baseline health of your child. Children must have the appropriate neuromuscular coordination needed to perform maneuvers for swimming. If your child can walk well, climb, follow instructions, and is between the ages of one and four, he or she is most likely ready for swimming lessons.

Since all swimming lessons are not the same, parents must search for the best class for their child. When enrolling your child in swim lessons, ensure that the class follows YMCA guidelines. Swim instructors must be certified in lifeguarding or aquatic safety, possess a national swim instructor certificate, and have first aid or CPR training. It is encouraged to enroll in a class that features parent participation.

Staying safe around pools

Pools themselves lure children and can pose as a hazard. Take the following precautions to ensure your pool is safe. A pool fence is an invaluable safety tool. When purchasing a pool fence, remember the rule of fours: buy a 4-sided fence at least 4 feet high and with openings 4 inches or less under the fence and between the vertical slats. Pool gates must have an automatic latch mechanism at least 54 inches high and should open out from the pool. Pool covers, pool alarms, and chain link fences around the pool are not sufficient and can lead to a false sense of security.

Potential hazards also exist within the pool, such as broken or missing pool drains and covers. In 1991, a three-year old girl was unable to remove herself from an uncapped pool suction drain. As a result, she suffered severe intestinal injuries, which required extensive surgery. Unfortunately, this is one of many incidents in which children have suffered critical injuries due to hazardous pool conditions.

Staying safe in natural water environments

Lakes, rivers, and the ocean can also pose health hazards. Be aware of creatures, large and small, that can lurk within these natural bodies of water. Microorganisms, such as E. coli, cryptosporidium, and Giardia, if ingested, can result in abdominal pain, fever, and diarrhea. Other bacteria can cause outer ear infections.

Animal bites or stings from alligators, snakes, or jellyfish will necessitate a visit to a physician.

Consider the strength of the water before swimming. If caught in a rip current while in the ocean, swim parallel to the shore until you’ve escaped the current, and then swim towards the shore.

Finally, look before you leap. Diving head first into water of unknown depth can result in severe head injuries, even death.

Out on the open water

The open water also exposes us to the use of recreational water vehicles. Boats, jet-skis, and water skis can all pose a danger. Life jackets are recommended at all times while using a water vehicle. Avoid intoxication with drugs and alcohol, which can severely impair one’s judgment. Avoid speeding while using these vehicles.

Know how to respond to an emergency

Knowing how to respond in case of an emergency is critical in preventing injuries or death. Never leave your child unattended around water and stay within an arm’s reach at all times. Learn to administer both adult and pediatric CPR. Keep rescue equipment and emergency numbers on hand.

Our community offers many resources to protect our children. Your local YMCA may offer parent-child swim lessons, group lessons, and private lessons. Now that you have the tools to make this summer a safe one, go out and enjoy Florida’s beautiful season.

[1] “Water-Safety-And-Young-Children.” Healthy Children. 17 May 2011. Web. 11 Apr. 2012. <http://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-play/Pages/Water-Safety-And-Young-Children.aspx>.

[2] “Swim Lessons & Aquatics.” Freedom Valley YMCA. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2012. <http://www.fvymca.org/youth/index.php?arr1=0,10&itemid=12>.

[3] HealthyChildren.org. 5/17/2011. <http://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-play/Pages/Water-Safety-And-Young-Children.aspx>

[4] Shorter, NA, JP Woodell, TB Cole, JA Hayes, and JN MacCormack. “Suction-Drain Injury in a Public Wading Pool –North Carolina, 1991 .” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 15 May 1992. Web. 13 Apr. 2012. <http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00016693.htm>

Community Resources

Lake Wales Family YMCA
1001 Burns Ave
Lake Wales, FL 33853

Winter Haven Family YMCA
6955 Cypress Gardens Blvd.
Winter Haven, FL 33884

Lakeland Family YMCA
3620 Cleveland Heights Blvd
Lakeland, FL 33803

Polk County Chapter
American Red Cross
147 Ave A NW
Winter Haven, FL33881

Leslie’s (Pool Supply Store)
7050 Cypress Gardens Blvd
Winter Haven, FL 33884

Leslie’s (Pool Supply Store)
4770 S Florida Ave
Lakeland, FL 33813

Leslie’s (Pool Supply Store)
111 Ambersweet Way
Davenport, FL 33897



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