Mercy Kids Doc Offers Water Safety Tips

July 20, 2016

A dangerous heat wave is setting its sights on the Midwest, and that means it’s pool time.

But don’t let the hot weather get to your head; Dr. Kody Finstad with Mercy Kids spoke with a blog for moms and floated some important reminders.

We always hear a child can drown in as little as one inch of water. Is that really true?

"Technically, yes," Dr. Finstad said. "While I don’t know of a specific case of a child drowning in only one inch of water, any amount of water that can block the nose is sufficient to drown in if the conditions are right. Unfortunately, reports of children drowning in other small amounts of water such as a partially filled bathtub, a small plastic kiddie-pool or even a 5-gallon bucket are not uncommon. In fact, for children ages 1-4 years, drowning is the leading cause of death behind birth defects. For children up to age 14 years, drowning is the leading cause of death behind motor vehicle accidents.

"Most deaths due to drowning occur at the home when the child is left unattended for less than five minutes. For this reason, it is recommended that parents practice 'touch supervision' for all children younger than 5, which means  parents are always within arm’s reach of the child whenever they are in the water (whether it be a swimming pool or bathtub)."

What is the appropriate age to introduce your child to water?

"There is nothing wrong with introducing kids to water at a very early age, but it is important to be realistic about what to expect if you are doing swim lessons. For children under the age of 1 year, swim lessons are really only a time for bonding with your child. It's recommended that infants do not have their faces placed underwater to decrease the risk they might get any water in their lungs.

"For children over the age of 1 year, swim lessons have been shown to slightly decrease the chance of drowning, but it should never be assumed that children are OK to be unsupervised at any time. Even children who are excellent swimmers can get into serious trouble if they are playing with friends and get jumped on, or if they slip along the side of the pool and fall in."

What's your No. 1 tip for safety while enjoying the lake, pool, river or creek?

"Always wear a life jacket. Children under age 13 years should even wear life jackets while walking on docks or along shore, but don’t rely on a life jacket to take the place of direct supervision. While a proper-fitting life jacket will prevent you from sinking to the bottom of the lake, it does not necessarily mean that it will keep you floating face up. Everyone has a different body shape and will float differently so you have to be ready at any moment to respond to a child who may be in trouble."