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Kids’ pool party safety tips

By The Health News Team | May 25, 2023
Children jumping into a pool

Pool parties are a summer staple. With warmer weather and many San Diego residences boasting pools, calendars fill quickly with invitations to grab a swimsuit and take the plunge.

Yet on the safety front, pool parties can go from fun to tragic, as energy is high and parental distraction is common.

“Drowning happens in a heartbeat,” says Dr. Gregory Apel, an emergency medicine doctor and the chief medical officer of Sharp Grossmont Hospital and Sharp Coronado Hospital. “In the time it takes a parent to grab a towel or a glass of water, an unattended child could lose their footing and go under.”

Tips to keep kids safe

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the leading cause of death for children. And for every death, seven kids receive emergency care for nonfatal drowning.

So whether you’re planning a pool party or attending one, keep these tips in mind to help keep your kids safe.

  • Never leave children unattended near a pool.
    Designate a “pool watcher” at all times. If they go off-duty, make sure someone new is on watch. Some party hosts provide lanyards to ensure there is no confusion about who is in charge.

  • Create a buddy system.
    Even with adult supervision, encourage kids to find a friend they can keep an eye on throughout the party. Taking responsibility for each other will heighten their awareness of pool safety risks. But never rely on the buddy system alone.

  • Don’t rely on life jackets and inflatables.
    Life jackets are designed to promote water safety, but they aren’t foolproof. Pool inflatables are fun accessories, but they aren’t designed to save lives. Never use these things in lieu of adult supervision.

  • Practice alcohol safety.
    While alcohol and parties often go hand-in-hand, it’s important to be vigilant about alcohol use when pools are at play. Just as you assign a designated driver for getting to parties, designate multiple sober “watchers” to keep an eye on the water.

  • Never dress kids in blue swimwear.
    Blue swimwear makes children more difficult to spot in the water, as they tend to blend in. Instead, opt for bright neon colors. Long-sleeved, brightly colored rash guards with sun protection offer the double benefit of helping to avoid drowning and sunburns.

  • Keep gates secure and designate “closed” times.
    Never prop a gate to allow easy access to a pool. Firmly designate the pool “closed” when unattended during gatherings and keep the gate secure so kids don’t feel tempted to test the water. If the pool is not gated or secure, assign someone to keep kids out of it during downtimes.

  • If a child is missing, check the water first.
    When it comes to drowning, every second counts so checking the pool first will waste little time if a drowning is underway. When closed, make sure the pool is clear of inflatables and other water toys so that visibility into the pool is unobstructed.

  • Enroll your kids in swim and water safety classes.
    Swim classes are something you can invest in year-round to help your kids feel comfortable in the water and to react effectively if something unexpected happens. Swim programs are available through most San Diego city and county recreation departments as well as the YMCA.

Don’t let your pool party end in disaster. As you enjoy celebrations and open your pool for the season, stay sharp and aware of all pool activities.

“Drowning is more common than you realize,” says Dr. Apel. “Don’t let anyone in your family become an unfortunate statistic.”

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