Headed to the pool or the river this summer? You'll want to hear this safety message about water safety and dry drowning first.
Let's start with the basics: The experts at KidMed say always have someone designated to watch your child in the pool.
“The little kids, they just need to be supervised,” said Dr. Jeff Bennett with KidMed. “So, not just lifeguards. But, parents have to pay attention.”
It can be really hard to keep a sharp focus, especially when you’re out in the sun for five hours at at a time. The reality is, it doesn’t take more than a minute or two to lose your concentration.
And don’t rule out the older kids as safe, even if they are good swimmers.
“Older kids, they’ll take bigger risks!” Dr. Bennett reminded us. “They can hit their heads and they can drown as well, so the older kids with risk taking and other things other than just pool safety."
And as you think about teenagers, it is important to make sure there is no underage drinking or illegal substances that could make swimming or boating even more dangerous.
"Unfortunately, a lot of kids that are 16 and above will do things that they shouldn’t do,” said Dr. Bennett. “They’ll drink alcohol, or even do illegal drugs and then when your brain’s not working correctly, that’s when you can drown as well."
In large groups, doctors warn that you should take personal responsibility for watching your child. It’s easy to assume the group has it handled, but if each adult assumes another is watching, you might all miss a dangerous situation.
Floaties may give you some peace of mind, but don't count on them.
Doctors at KidMed say you can still drown with floaties on, especially if you can't "right" yourself in the water.
“Kids are very heavy in their heads,” explained Dr. Bennett. “The largest portion of their body weight is in their heads, so they will tip forward and it doesn’t take long for a child to submerse and just their face can submerse, not their whole body.”
Then, there is also the phenomenon of dry drowning, essentially problems after a scare in the water, that can still lead to death.
“If you’ve had a little bit of an incident then where you’ve been submersed for any length of time, then those children need to be watched. And the literature is really pretty clear about that,” explained Dr. Bennett.
If your child is submersed, it's important to watch up to 72 hours. However, the first 7 hours are the most critical.
"If your child looks like they're having trouble breathing, even if they just sputtered a little bit, it doesn't take much water to cause your airway to spasm and that's truly what they talk about with dry drowning," said Dr. Bennett.
Dr. Bennett says in dry drowning, the voicebox spasms, and therefore the person struggles to get oxygen. Watch for coughing, wheezing and changes in breathing.
You can also watch the full interview with Dr. Bennett above or check out our RVA Parenting Facebook group.
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