Summer is here (well it was at the weekend), and families across Ireland are looking forward to trips to the beach and summer holidays in the sun with their children. However the combination of water and children during the holiday season can be a potentially dangerous mix.
Unfortunately a drowning incident can happen silently and instantly, in as little as one inch of water and in less time than it takes to answer the telephone. And sadly, a primary factor in cases of fatal drowning is down to the initial shock of falling into the water. Unfortunately, the danger is greater on holiday with the added exposure to swimming pools and the sea.
Therese McNally who runs Water Babies classes in Dublin, Meath, Kildare, Wicklow and Louth said: ‘Everyone looks forward to getting away, letting our hair down and giving children the freedom to splash about. But parents tend to relax and gain a false sense of security for children in a holiday setting, when in fact they should be even more attentive than usual.”
‘Very young children react instantly and adversely to sudden and unexpected submersion, and are temporarily paralysed with fear,’ Therese McNally explains. ‘A primary goal of ours at Water Babies is to teach babies vital life-saving skills, such as turning onto their backs or swimming to the nearest solid object. It’s our belief that a baby who is confident in the water and has been taught these simple survival skills stands a far better chance of coping with an unexpected immersion; thus avoiding the heart-wrenching tragedy of losing a child to drowning.’
The good news is that using a few simple guidelines parents and carers can minimize the chances of such a tragic incident befalling their child.
Here are Water Babies’ top tips for pool side safety this summer and all through the year:
Actively supervise young children around water
- · Parents must keep an eye on their children at all times – they can be easily distracted chatting to other parents, reading a newspaper or talking on the phone.
- · Supervising adults should be in arms reach of children under five so that if a child slips underwater, they can be pulled to safety immediately
- · The adult watching must be able to swim and not afraid to jump in the water.
- · If leaving, even momentarily, take your child or designate a known adult to supervise – never leave an older sibling in charge.
Be safety conscious at the poolside
- · Make sure there is a qualified lifeguard in attendance before you or your children enter a public swimming pool.
- · Check where the rescue equipment and lifeguards are.
- · Do not swim in a swimming pool which has cloudy pool water or where you can’t see the pool bottom
- · Save the local emergency numbers on your mobile phone.
Flotation devices are not life preservers
- · They do not replace supervision and must fit properly.
- · Toys and inflatables are often unstable and therefore a hazard.
- · Arm bands or floats should carry an approved standards emblem.
Do not swim at beaches with large waves, a powerful undercurrent or no lifeguards
- · Find out where the lifeguards are and learn water symbols and flags indicating current beach conditions. Follow their advice.
- · Drinking can impair your supervision and swimming skills – especially when combined with the mid-day heat.
Learn CPR (Cardiopulmonary resuscitation)
- · Seconds count in preventing death or brain damage.
Teach your children these water safety rules:
- · Never swim alone
- · Do not push or jump onto others or participate in any dangerous behaviour in a swimming pool – ie horseplay, wrestling, running, jumping and dive bombing – it might result in injury.
- · Do not dive into water unless someone has already tested the depth and checked for underwater hazards. Diving into insufficient water depths can cause face, head and spinal injuries and even death
- · Know what to do in an emergency and where to get help
- · Make sure everybody wears a lifejacket when boating or fishing that is age and size specific.
And finally, teach your children to swim from as early as possible. Water Babies operate classes in Dublin, Cork, Belfast, Wicklow, Meath, Kildare, Galway, Waterford, Kilkenny, Tipperary, Wexford and Sligo.
For more info on Water Babies classes, check out www.waterbabies.ie