Now that school is over, the action will ramp up at backyard and public pools as well as Long Island’s beaches. Whether or not the places where you swim are patrolled by lifeguards, some basic tips will help keep you and your children from getting into trouble in the water.
First, youngsters should learn to swim. Even 6- and 7-year-olds with proper instruction can swim comfortably in deep water. There are classes at your local Y, at school pools and at a wide variety of county facilities. And parents who can’t swim don’t exactly set the best example. The basics of swimming aren’t difficult to master, so it’s never too late to learn.
If you have a pool, it should be surrounded by a fence at least five feet high and have gates with childproof latches, to help enforce the first and most important rule at any body of water: Never swim alone. Even expert swimmers, left alone, can cramp up or, worse, stumble, knock themselves out, fall into a pool and drown.
Don’t allow preschoolers to use inflatable flotation devices, which can deflate quickly if they’re punctured, and often seem to give parents an excuse not to watch children as closely as they should. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends “touch supervision” with small children, which is just what it sounds like: making sure they stay within reach.
For situations when arms aren’t long enough to help a struggling swimmer, keep some kind of reaching device at poolside. Even the lowly leaf skimmer can work, though a metal shepherd’s crook is best. And if you plan to throw a pool party or two this summer, you shouldn’t leave the safety of a group of swimmers of wide-ranging health and athletic abilities to chance: Take a basic, three-hour class in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, and buy and learn to use an automated external defibrillator, or AED. The vast majority of the 3,500-plus drownings in the nation’s pools, lakes and oceans each year are attributable to breathing- and heart-related emergencies.