Summer danger: Water

Summer danger: Water

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When the weather warms up, getting into the water is a great way to beat the heat. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That doesn't mean your family can't take the plunge, however. With a bit of common sense and lots of supervision, splashing and swimming this summer can safe and fun. Read on for tips and advice.

Plus: Find out how to protect your little ones against other summer dangers, from dehydration and dog bites to sun, bugs, lawn mowers, and the downside of bike riding.

The dangers of water

Drowning can happen in mere seconds. Don't leave your child unattended around water even for a moment.

Young children can drown in as little as an inch of water. Bathtubs, wading pools, toilets, and even buckets are dangerous: Very young children are top-heavy and tend to fall in headfirst and can't right themselves.

Kids ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates, and most of these deaths occur in home swimming pools. Most who drown in pools have been out of sight for less than five minutes and were being cared for by one or both parents, who were close by at the time.

Even if your child swims like a fish, remain vigilant around water. Swimming lessons can help children as young as 1 year old, but they don't guarantee your child's safety.

At the pool

Adult supervision is critically important. You or another responsible adult must watch your young child every single second. Learn CPR and be sure there are life preservers, life jackets, a telephone, and a shepherd's crook poolside.

Pool noodles, inner tubes, and air-filled swimming aids (like water wings) are not proper flotation devices. Don't rely on them to keep your child safe. For better protection, have your child wear a properly fitted, Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device.

If you have a pool at home, make sure children can't get to it on their own. Install secure fencing around all four sides of any swimming pool – including aboveground and portable pools. Door and pool alarms, along with automatic pool covers, also help make pools safer.

Check that any pool or spa you use has working, properly installed anti-entrapment drain covers and meets federal safety standards. The suction from a pool drain can hold even an adult underwater.

If you have a pool or spa at home, make sure it's enclosed on all sides with a fence and a self-locking gate. Don't use a chain-link fence (which children can easily climb), and keep the area clear of anything a child could use to boost himself over the fence.

At the beach

The ocean's rip current can drag a child under water and out to sea even if the child is near the shore. Again, the most important thing you can do is keep your eyes on your child at all times.

For added safety, stay near a lifeguard and never allow your children to swim alone. The U.S. Lifesaving Association reports that people are almost five times more likely to drown at a beach without lifeguards.

In a boat

Wear life jackets. Most deaths in boating accidents are drownings, and they usually involve people who fell overboard or found themselves in the water because the boat sank. Federal law requires life jackets for children 13 and younger, and some states have additional regulations.

You and your child should wear personal flotation devices on the boat and on the dock. The U.S. Coast Guard provides guidance on finding a device for your child.

Find out more

  • Get the scoop on water safety.
  • Fact or fiction? Kids should wait an hour after eating before they swim.

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