Swimming safety


Common questions from parents

Parents often have many questions regarding their infants and children around swimming. Given we are right in the middle of summer, I thought it would be a good time to highlight some of the common questions parents have:

At what age should a child start learning how to swim?
According to the Canadian Paediatric Society, swimming programs for infants and toddlers less than four years of age aren’t an effective drowning prevention strategy. It is important to know that children less than four years of age don’t have the developmental ability to master water survival skills and swim independently.

At what age can my child swim in a lake or river or other recreational facilities?
Aside from the drowning dangers, water facilities pose additional threats to children related to infections. Illnesses are caused by swallowing, breathing in, or coming in contact with contaminated water from swimming pools, spas, lakes, rivers or oceans. They include a variety of diseases, such as gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract, neurologic, skin, ear, and eye and wound infections.

Many people don’t realize that disease transmission through the use of recreational water can be a serious source of illness. Basically if a facility is tested and deemed safe for swimming, children of any age can enjoy it, provided however, that the following measures be taken:

  • Continual one-on-one-supervision. Babies and infants should always be in the arms of an adult.
  • Ensure that baby’s head is kept out of the water so that he/she will not swallow recreational water.
  • Do not let your child swim when he/she has diarrhea.
  • Wash children thoroughly, especially their bottom, with soap and water before allowing them to enter the water.
  • Wash their hands with soap and water after each bathroom use.
  • Wash your hands after each diaper change.
  • Change diapers in a bathroom, not by the water.
  • Take your child on frequent bathroom breaks and check diapers often.
  • In all instances, common sense needs to help decide if the conditions are appropriate for swimming for children.

On a final note, here are some other general water safety precautions:

  • Do not think of floatie (inflatable) toys as life jackets. Floaties are not approved life jackets and can give children a false sense of security.
  • Children around any body of water should always be closely supervised.
  • When buying a life jacket for your child, make sure that it is the right size. The jacket should be snug and not loose, and be worn as per the instructions with all the straps belted properly
  • Children should never swim around anchored boats in motor boat lanes or where people are water skiing. Also they should never swim during electrical storms.
  • The pool or hot tub should have a four-sided fence with a self-closing and self-latching gate. The fence should be at least four feet high and difficult to climb. article-end-jj15-30px
Pediatrician and health communications pioneer Dr. Paul Roumeliotis has produced of hundreds of articles, booklets and videos on a variety of child health issues. His highly acclaimed, groundbreaking book for parents focusing on the importance of the first 18 months of life, Baby Come Home, was released early in 2015 and is an Amazon bestseller. Visit www.drpaul.com and follow Dr. Paul on Twitter:@thedrpaul

Photo: depositphotos.com © iriana88w