Swimming is a great way to beat summer's heat but pools, ponds and other bodies of water also pose dangers, particularly to young children.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, drowning is the leading cause of accidental death among children 5 years old and younger in the United States. Every year an average of 390 children 14 and younger drown in pools or spas.
In addition, the National Safety Council said an estimated 5,000 children ages 1 to14 are hospitalized due to unintentional drowning-related incidents each year and as many as 20 percent suffer severe, permanent neurological disability.
To protect children this summer, the Southern Tier Child Health and Safety Team urges pool and spa owners to follow these pool and spa safety guidelines from the Consumer Product Safety Commission:
Never leave a child unattended in a pool or spa and always watch your child when he or she is in or near water.
Teach children basic water safety tips.
Keep children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings to avoid entrapments.
Have a telephone close by when you or your family is using a pool or spa.
If a child is missing, look for him or her in the pool or spa first.
Share safety instructions with family, friends and neighbors.
The commission also recommends that all children receive swimming lessons as the first step to protect them against drowning. Caregivers supervising swimming children should also know how to swim or learn how to swim if they plan to supervise swimming children.
Toddler wading pools should be emptied after each use and put away. An overnight rain could partially fill a pool and create a danger to neighborhood children. Portable pools, which include small wading pools of less than 18-inches deep and soft-sided inflatable pools up to 4-feet deep, can be particularly dangerous.
A study by The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, found that many safety measures used for permanent pools such as fencing, pool alarms, safety covers and removable or lockable ladders are often too expensive or not available to families with portable pools.
The study highlighted the importance of undistracted adult supervision when children are using a pool or swimming in an open body of water.
Researchers said that adults were supervising children in 43 percent or less than half of the incidents that led to drowning or near-drowning. However in most cases, 73 percent, an adult was at home, either inside or on the property, at the time of the accident.
Parents and caregivers should be present to supervise children anytime they are swimming whether the children are in a pool, spa, pond, lake, creek or any body of water.
The New York State Department of Health recommends that pool owners make pools inaccessible to children unless an adult is directly supervising them. The New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code require pool owners to enclose their pools with fencing and that the fencing include a self-closing, self-latching gate.
Pool and spa owners should periodically check to make sure their pool and spa gates are closed and latched when the pool or spa are not in use to protect small children.
The code also requires that all pools installed since 2006 have an alarm that will sound when someone enters the water. The alarm must sound at the pool and another location such as inside the house. Doors or windows of a home that open directly into the pool or spa area must also sound an alarm when opened.
It's also recommended that parents and caregivers take a CPR and first aid course. Class information is available from the Southwestern NY American Red Cross in Olean by calling 372-2552 or by visiting www.redcross.org/CPR-Training.
Supported by a grant from the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS), the Southern Tier Child Health and Safety Team was founded to explore the causes of preventable child deaths in Allegany and Cattaraugus counties and make recommendations to the community to prevent child deaths and improve the health and safety of children.
Child Health and Safety Team Member agencies include the OCFS Buffalo Regional Office, Southern Tier Health Care System, the New York State Police, Cattaraugus County Sheriff's Office, the Allegany County and Cattaraugus County Departments of Social Services, Departments of Health, County Attorney's Offices, District Attorney's Offices and Coroner's Offices, Olean General Hospital, Jones Memorial Hospital, Cuba Memorial Hospital, Olean Police Department, Salamanca Police Department, Wellsville Police Department, Dr. Pamela Salzmann, Allegany/Western Steuben Rural Health Network and the NYS Sudden Infant and Child Death Resource Center.
For more information about the Southern Tier Child Health and Safety Team, visit www.sthcs.org or call Southern Tier Health Care System Inc. at 372-0614.