JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With warmer summer months ahead, child safety advocates want to inform parents and caregivers that the peak drowning season is officially here. Drowning remains one of the leading causes of death in small children in the state of Florida, and beyond.
“Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death in children ages 1 to 4,” said Jessica Winberry, coordinator for Safe Kids Northeast Florida. “It does happen so quickly, and the amount of time to respond is very limited.”
As Winberry explains, it can happen in just a matter of seconds. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, once a child begins to struggle, parents may have less than a minute to react. What’s more, Winberry said, despite what some people think, drowning is a silent killer.
“I think a lot of times parents and caregivers really still believe they’re going to hear something from a child that’s drowning,” Winberry said. “Splashing or crying out or making noise. That’s absolutely untrue.”
Another misconception is that if an adult is nearby at the time, a drowning cannot happen. Winberry said in many drowning cases, a gathering where several adults are just feet away is taking place. With so much going on, the adults may unintentionally become distracted and not realize a child is struggling in the water.
That’s why Winberry said a designated water watcher is key. This is a person whose sole focus is on the children who are swimming. She suggests the water watcher wear a wristband or something to actively identify them as such. Rotation is key.
“Then 10 or 15 minutes later, this could get passed on to another adult who can take on this responsibility,” Winberry said.
Winberry also said there is a common belief that if a lifeguard is present, their job is to watch individual children. In actuality, a lifeguard’s job is to enforce rules, scan, rescue and resuscitate. It is not to keep an eye on any specific child.
When keeping your little one safe in the water, you can never go wrong with a good life jacket. Safe Kids Northeast Florida says parents should only get one that is Coast Guard approved. The seal will be marked on the jacket itself.
Winberry said parents should avoid children’s swimmies because, technically, these are not considered to be life-saving devices.
“Sometimes one of the swimmies can maybe slip off their little wet arm, and now they’ve got one arm floating and their head can go facedown,” Winberry said.
That brings us to swim and survival lessons: your child’s best weapon in the fight against drowning. Winberry said there are five things your children will need to master in the pool to ensure they’re a strong swimmer:
- Jump into a pool and come back to the surface
- Swim 25 yards
- Circle around in a pool and find an exit
- Get out without using a ladder
- Float or tread water for a full minute
To give parents and caregivers a sense of how important the last skill is, a South Florida toddler made the news a couple of weeks ago. His parents said in what felt like a split second, the boy got outside and fell into the family’s pool. The child immediately flipped over onto his back, saving his own life. Even with these skills, Winberry said, with the smallest children, parents should still never let their guard down for even a second.
“It gives that parent maybe a little more security to run inside the house,” Winberry said. “Oftentimes, that one-minute turns into a couple of minutes -- that’s where we can see some of these tragedies happen as well.”
Winberry also said CPR is something all parents and caregivers should know how to do. Safe Kids Worldwide says initiating CPR on the scene before a first responder arrives increases the likelihood of survival.
There are many resources in Jacksonville to help parents and caregivers learn. One option is through the American Red Cross. To learn more, click here.
To read more about water safety through Safe Kids Northeast Florida, visit https://www.wolfsonchildrens.com/about/water-safety.