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East Tennessee Children's Hospital
2018 W Clinch Ave
Knoxville, TN 37916
865-541-8000

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Water Safety

Water Safety

East Tennessee Children's Hospital and Safe Kids of the Greater Knox Area want to make sure that no child in East Tennessee becomes a drowning statistic this summer. Drowning hazards are everywhere; swimming pools, ponds, lakes, bathtubs, toilets or even a bucket of water can spell disaster for a child. The most important water safety lesson to learn is simply to stay alert - know where your children are and what the area is like at all times. Your attention is their best protection.

Drowning: The Silent Killer

Drowning could easily be called "The Silent Killer" because when a child goes under water, they seldom make a single sound. Literally, seconds count when a child goes under water:

  • 30 seconds to 1 minute -- the airway closes and the child's lips turn blue.
  • 1 to 2 minutes -- the child loses consciousness.
  • 2 to 5 minutes -- the heart can stop. The child still has a chance of survival if rescued now.
  • 5 minutes or more -- permanent brain damage is occurring as each second ticks by.

Each year, water-related injuries send thousands of children to hospital emergency rooms, including East Tennessee Children's Hospital. Diving accidents make up a huge portion of these injuries, while fatigue, lack of proper swim instructions and water vehicle accidents also are factors in the alarming number of incidents that happen each year. It is important to remind parents, grandparents and other caregivers that following simple water safety rules will help keep children safe in any type of water and help minimize a child's risk of drowning.

General Water Safety Rules

Dr. Lise Christensen, pediatric emergency specialist at Children's Hospital, says most accidents could actually be prevented with increased supervision. "Nothing, not even swimming lessons or life preservers, takes the place of good parental supervision around the water. In my career, I have never seen a near drowning that could not have been prevented with better supervision."

Adult supervision is the key to keeping drowning situations from ever happening. Never leave a child alone or unsupervised in or near water at the pool, the lake, the beach or in the bathtub. An accident can occur in seconds, and children can drown in as little as two inches of water. If you must leave even for a moment, even to answer the phone, take your child with you. Make sure adults watching young children near water know CPR and can rescue a child if necessary. CPR is the lifesaver that can truly make the difference in a child surviving a drowning. Children's Hospital's Healthy Kids program offers regular classes on CPR.

Click here for more information or to sign up for CPR classes.

Pool Safety Rules

  • Surround your pool - on all four sides - with a sturdy five-foot fence.
  • Make sure the gates self-close and have self-latching and self-locking features at a height children can't reach. Also, consider having a pool alarm and automatic interior door locks.
  • Consider keeping rescue equipment such as a shepherd's hook (which is a long pole with a hook on the end) and a flotation device near the pool.
  • A telephone is a necessity at the pool so you can call for help if needed and you will not need to leave the pool unattended to answer the phone.
  • Lifeguards are added supervision for your child but should not be counted on or considered the only method of supervision.
  • Recognize that inflatable swimming aids such as "floaties" are not a substitute for approved life vests or supervision. They also can give children a false sense of security in the water.
  • Enroll children around the age of 4 in swimming lessons taught by qualified instructors. Keep in mind that lessons don't make your child "drown-proof."
  • Every home pool should have a Pool Safety Kit within several feet of the pool. This safety kit should include items such as a first aid kit, a flashlight, a flotation device, a blanket, dry towels, a whistle and a phone.

Lake and River Safety Rules

Lakes, oceans and rivers can be a lot of fun for children, as long as you keep safety in mind. When on or near the water, insist that your child wear a life preserver or flotation device. The U.S. Coast Guard estimates that 9 of 10 drowning victims are not wearing any type of flotation device. When swimming in natural bodies of water, teach your children these key swimming rules:

  1. Always swim with a buddy.
  2. Don't dive into unknown bodies of water. Jump feet first to avoid hitting your head on shallow bottom.
  3. Don't jump or push others into the water.
  4. Be prepared for an emergency.
  5. If you are near another body of water, follow the signs posted. If a sign says swimming isn't allowed, this is there for a reason.
  6. Never consume alcohol when operating a boat, swimming or during water activities, and don't allow your child to ride on any water vehicle where you suspect alcohol consumption will take place.

Other accidents could include slipping and falling, injuries due to boating or tubing and drowning due to fierce currents. Though your child may be a skilled swimmer, he or she will need the help of an adult in an emergency. Always designate an adult who will be responsible for watching the children in the pool, river, ocean or at a water park. Water emergencies can turn into fatalities in seconds, so having a phone on hand to reach emergency officials can save your child's life. By being an active water watcher, you can protect your children from the dangers of the water.

Bathtub and Bathroom Safety Rules

  • Never leave a baby unattended in the bath. If you must answer the telephone or door, don't rely on an older sibling to watch the baby; wrap your baby in a towel and bring him or her with you.
  • Stand guard over a bathtub that's filling with water.
  • Don't use a bathtub seat with suction cups. The seat can overturn and flip a baby headfirst into the water.
  • Install a toilet-lid locking device or keep bathroom doors closed.
  • Never leave a small child unattended near a bucket filled with any amount of water or other liquid.

The above list was adapted from suggestions by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Safety Council. Pool, beach and lake activities provide a fun-filled day for the entire family, but precautions are necessary to enjoy all bodies of water safely. For more information about water safety, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics Web site at www.aap.org, the National Safety Council's Web site at www.nsc.org.