Safety first when it comes to water

mott blog - water watcher post imageThere’s nothing like a cool dip in the pool or lake on a hot summer day, but children and water can be a dangerous combination. In fact, drowning is the second leading cause of injury-related death in Michigan for children ages 1 to 4 years old. You can have your water and your safety too, just take the proper precautions.

One of the most frequent drowning or near drowning scenarios we see at the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital Emergency Department is what I call the diffusion effect — when several adults are in the area, but each thinks someone else is watching the children. In reality, no one is closely watching the children.

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To help avoid that potentially tragic scenario, use the Water Watcher card strategy. Download a Water Watcher card and use it every time you’re around water. The adult holding the card has primary responsibility for supervising the children. This means he or she is not on the phone, not checking email, not reading a book and not engrossed in conversation. Pass the card off to another adult after a period of 15 minutes or so, or whenever the cardholder needs to take his or her focus from the water.

water watcher card

Click on this image and print a copy to have your own “Water Watcher” card on hand at your next pool or beach party.

The Water Watcher card system is one way of providing direct supervision. That is your top priority if your children are near water. Do not rely on the lifeguards to supervise your children as closely as you would. Lifeguards are scanning a larger area and are often focused on dozens of people. Only you or another responsible adult can keep eyes specifically focused on your child(ren).

A common misconception is that you’ll know if someone is drowning because he or she will be making a ruckus, flailing and shouting in the water. Most drownings are silent, as the person quietly slips under the surface of the water. That’s why constant supervision is a must.

In addition to watching your children, there are other layers of protection you can take when near the water. Life jackets, not inflatable swim aids or arm floaties, are a good idea for children who are not proficient swimmers. Enroll your child in swim lessons. Never rely on child proofing alone. Even if there’s a fence or alarm around the pool, don’t assume those will keep your child out of the water. When there’s water in the area, always keep your children within eyesight. Nothing replaces proper supervision.

It’s not just pools and lakes that are a drowning risk. The harsh reality is that children can drown in as little as one inch of water. This means you must have your eyes on your child if he or she is in the bathtub, in a kiddie splash pool, near a landscaping pool or even near a bucket of water. If your child is ever missing, check all nearby standing water areas first. Don’t waste time checking under a bed, in closets, etc. The faster you can find a child who may be submerged in water, the faster you can start treatment. If you haven’t already, learn CPR.

Summertime at the lake or pool can be fun for the family, just put safety first.

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amy teddy mott children's hospitalAmy Teddy, BS, is Program Manager of the Injury Prevention program at University of Michigan Mott Children’s Hospital. Amy and her husband David have two children, Rylan and Kellin.




best children's hospitalUniversity of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is consistently ranked one of the best hospitals in the country. It was nationally ranked in all ten pediatric specialties in U.S. News Media Group’s “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals,” and among the 10 best children’s hospitals in the nation by Parents Magazine. In December 2011, the hospital opened our new 12-story, state-of-the-art facility offering cutting-edge specialty services for newborns, children and women.