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Pool parties: summer fun, with an eye toward safety first


Last updated 7/5/2007 at Noon

Summer has finally arrived, and with it, local pool parties and happy summer memories. Tragically, a pool can also bring a nightmarish experience to families.

“Every year an average of 260 children younger than the age of 5 drown,” said Arlene Flecha, spokesperson for the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in Washington, DC. Recent numbers have also indicated that 2,725 children under 5 have been rushed to the hospital due to submersion injuries, some of which have resulted in brain damage.

Flecha said that children in this age bracket have the tendency to roam and investigate outside when their parent(s) and/or caregivers are not watching. Toddlers grow and change on a daily basis and often do something unanticipated.

“Children under the age of 5 are more prone to wander around and fall into a pool,” Flecha said. Statistics show that babies as young as 1 have fallen victim to pool tragedies.

Misconceptions exist about being able to hear screaming and/or splashing from a child who has fallen into a pool. At many homes where a drowning or submersion injury has occurred, caretakers have said they heard no noises of distress from the child. No sounds alerted them that there was trouble.

“We want to make people aware that [drowning] can happen very quickly and silently,” said Flecha. “It only takes a few seconds.” There has to be constant adult supervision. Taking your eyes off of a child to answer a ringing phone could result in an irreversible tragedy.

Flecha strongly suggests removing inflatable toys from the pool following playtime, as younger children have the natural tendency to want to retrieve these toys.

Another topic worth mentioning are inflatable and plastic pools. These items can also be perilous. “People might think these are toys, but it only takes a couple of inches of water for a young child to drown,” said Flecha.

Between 2004 and 2006 there were 47 drowning deaths related to child-sized pools. Parents must always remember to empty these pools, said Flecha.

A whirlpool and/or hot tub can also be a danger to children.

In the warm months, many families throw pool parties. During this time, there should always be a designated adult to watch the children in the pool.

“Never have children in charge of supervising other children,” said Flecha. “Pool supervision is an adult responsibility.” Even if children already know how to swim, adult supervision should never wane. Likewise, parents should be able to perform CPR in the case of an emergency.

For pool owners, safety measures must be in place to protect children at all times. Pools should be enclosed by a well-maintained fence or other type of efficient barrier. This barrier should be at least four feet high and vertical slats should never be more than four inches apart. Gates to pool barriers should be self-closing and latches should be out of a child’s reach.

In addition to pool barriers, doors leading to the pool area must have alarms and a pool power safety cover should be considered. Ladders to above-ground pools must be removed and stored away under lock and key.

A new product, the Turtle Wristband Pool Alarm, is receiving much attention. This device attaches to a child’s wrist and sounds a loud alarm if he or she falls into the water. (Please note that the CPSC does not endorse any product.)

The above safety measures mentioned are not a childproof guarantee; rather, they are additional layers of defense and protection against pool tragedies. The best protection one can give a child is “100 percent supervision 100 percent of the time.”

Swim lessons & CPR courses

• Boys & Girls Club of North County swimming lessons and “Mommy and Me” courses: (760) 728-5871

Fallbrook High School swimming lessons: (760) 723-6300

• Red Cross CPR and first aid classes: (877) 454-7229


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