With a Shortage of Lifeguards, Here’s How to Keep Children Safe

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University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children'sExperts in Children's Health
Mother and baby in swimming pool

A national lifeguard shortage this summer is causing thousands of public pools to close or cut back hours and leaving many beachgoers to swim at their own risk.

Parents should be extra cautious about kids and water, as drowning is a leading cause of death for children.

There are close to 4,000 drowning deaths in the United States every year, and about twice as many non-fatal drownings, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children ages 1 to 4 are at highest risk for drowning.

Swim Safety Tips

Here are some tips to keep kids safe this swimming season:

  • Teach young children to ask permission to go near the water.
  • Stay within an arm’s reach of young children or inexperienced child swimmers in the water.
  • Watch kids closely when they are in or near the water, even when a lifeguard is on duty. Close adult supervision is the best way to prevent a child from drowning.
  • Water rings and inflatables are not life jackets. Don’t depend on them for safety.
  • Enroll children in swimming lessons.
  • Home pools should be fenced on all sides (at least 4 feet high), with a self-latching gate. Many children who drown in home pools do so during non-swim times, when they weren’t expected to be in the water, according to the American Red Cross.
  • Even above-ground, inflatable pools should be surrounded by fencing.
  • Be aware of possibility of delayed respiratory injury from aspirating water, sometimes colloquially referred to as “dry drowning.”

Beach Precautions

Remember that open water such as lakes can present their own hazards.

Depths can drop off quickly, distances can be deceiving and rip currents can be present.

Enter the water only in designated swim areas, only at beaches with lifeguards.

Check local beach forecasts for conditions. Rip currents can be present even on calm, sunny days, according to the National Weather Service.

Related Links

University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital provides expert pediatric care for infants, children and adolescents. With expertise in 16 medical and 12 surgical specialties, our team of doctors, nurses and other clinical staff has experience in diagnosing and treating children for a range of medical issues, from common childhood illnesses to complex conditions. Learn more about the nationally recognized pediatric medical care at UH Rainbow Babies.

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