Giving your kid swimming lessons is a smart move, but you can't just relax the moment he passes all his safety tests. It's one thing for a child to be a proficient swimmer in a pool (and even then, he's not drown-proof), but open water is a whole different beast. A new report from Safe Kids Worldwide gives some alarming findings, which you should take note of if your family will be hanging out near a lake, river or ocean this summer.
More children drown each year in open water — such as lakes, rivers and oceans — than in pools or other water sources.
A 10-year-old is three times more likely to drown in open water than a pool, due to hazards such as dangerous drop-offs, strong currents and limited visibility.
Boys are at a much greater risk of a fatal open water drowning than girls, with 84 per cent of open water drownings in children ages 0-19 occurring in males.
What can you do to help keep your child safe? Quite a bit, actually. Here are some tips for parents paediatrician Dr. Marcee White.
Teach children that swimming in open water is different from swimming in a pool.
"Be aware of situations that are unique to open water, such as visibility, depth, uneven surfaces, currents and undertow," White says. "These potential hazards can make swimming in open water more challenging than swimming in a pool."
Make sure kids learn these five water survival skills:
1) Step or jump into water over their head and return to the surface.
2) Turn around and orient to safety
3) Float or tread water
4) Combine breathing with forward movement in the water
5) Exit the water
Take turns being the Water Watcher
A Water Watcher agrees to focus their attention completely on the kids in the pool for a certain amount of time — say, 15 minutes.
Have your children wear a life jacket when participating in recreational activities on the water
Look for one that's appropriate for their weight and the water activity. For younger children, choose a PFD with both a collar for head support and a strap between the legs. Understand that swimming aids and water toys, such as water wings and inflatable water rings, do not prevent drowning.
Use designated swimming areas and recreational areas whenever possible
"Professionals have assessed these areas, and there are usually signs posted regarding hazards and the presence of lifeguards," White says.
Learn basic water rescue skills and CPR
It is important to know how to respond in an emergency without putting yourself at risk. Says White: "Learning basic rescue skills and CPR may help you save a child's life."