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Water Safety for Kids

The following resources provide valuable water safety information and tips for children.


Potential Risks

A child loses consciousness after two minutes underwater, and suffers irreversible brain damage in just four to six minutes. This article discusses the dangers of water for children, including statistics on drowning.
• This article outlines the importance of properly disinfecting pools and the risks of pathogens and disinfectants.


Diapers, ear tubes, and casts can pose challenges for kids who want to swim. This article describes the risks of a improperly treated swimming pools may increase the risk of developing respiratory illnesses, including asthma and hay fever, among children wearing a diaper in a public swimming pool, as well as tips for safely swimming with ear tubes or casts.


Children between the ages of one and four are at the highest risk of drowning. According to this resource from the CDC, more than 30 percent of deaths among children in this age group from accidental injury were the result of drowning in 2009.


Swim Skills to Master

Start swimming lessons before one year of age. According to this resource, swimming triggers memories of the womb in children under one year of age, encouraging faster learning of swimming skills.


Children should learn to feel safe in the water. One of the most important skills for children to master when learning to swim is to feel safe in the water, according to this guide to swimming lessons from the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington.


Teach children to properly kick in the water. Very young children can be taught how to properly kick in the water with the help of an adult. This article explains how to teach your child to kick, one of the most basic and essential swimming skills to master.


Feeling safe around water is equally as important as feeling safe in the water. Most swimming classes, at the most basic levels, begin with instruction for children on how to properly behave both in and around water to ensure safety. Basic skills like not running on the pool deck, not jumping in the water when an adult is not paying attention, and other essential safety tips are important for children to learn early on.


Know your children’s limits – and teach them to know their own. Kids can get so caught up in having fun that they don’t pay attention to how fatigued they are, which can lead to a greater risk of drowning and other water-related accidents. Learn the signs and teach your kids to recognize when they’re becoming tired and need to take a break.


Safety Equipment

Goggles help kids see better underwater. Goggles offer protection for the eyes in chlorinated or non-treated water, which can help them avoid entrapment and other obstacles that could pose danger when swimming underwater.


Water wings can give kids confidence without being cumbersome or interfering with movement. This article covers a few safety devices for kids, including pros and cons. This article also recommends not relying solely on safety devices to keep your kids safe in the water.


Flotation devices help kids stay afloat. This article points out that flotation devices come in a variety of styles, from arm floaties to life jackets, making it easier for kids to keep their heads above water and avoid ingesting swimming pool water. However, not all flotation devices are created equal. See the tip below for more information.


Arm bands and air-inflated tubes will not prevent drowning. As this resource suggests, a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life preserver is always a good idea for children playing near or swimming in bodies of water or swimming pools, as these devices are the only safety devices that can prevent drowning.


Safety drain covers are required by law and help to avoid entrapment. Make sure the public swimming pool you’re visiting has appropriate safety drain covers.


Age-Specific Hydration and Nutrition Tips

Hydration is important for kids during swimming. Like any physical activity, swimming can reduce the body’s hydration level. Drinking plain water is appropriate for swim sessions of one hour or less, while longer swimming sessions or those in which kids are exerting a great deal of energy may require the replenishment of electrolytes, which can be obtained through sports drinks such as Gatorade.


Kids involved in swimming suffer from dehydration more frequently than kids participating in other sports. This article explains that swimming keeps the body cool, making the loss of hydration less noticeable to kids than it would be when participating in other sports.


Don’t swallow pool water. Public swimming pools are treated with chemicals and may contain bacteria that can be harmful to the body if ingested. Teach children to avoid swallowing pool water.


Be wary of poor summer eating habits. This article suggests that after a long day at the pool, kids tend to head to the refrigerator or pantry simply because they’re bored. Combined with the hot dogs, funnel cakes, and evening ice cream stops that often happen during the summer months, and you have a recipe for “a summer-long bad-eating binge.”


Teach kids healthy eating habits at an early age. Taking them to the grocery store is a good way to involve them, but this article recommends using a game like a scavenger hunt to help them seek out healthy foods rather than the sugary treats that are often at kids’ eye levels in grocery stores.


Water Safety for Seniors

The following resources provide valuable information and tips on water safety for seniors.


Potential Risks

No one should ever swim alone, at any age. This article covers some important pool safety information for seniors, pointing out that no one should ever swim alone, regardless of age. This is particularly important for children and seniors who are at greater risk of slips and falls. Swimming alone means there is no one nearby who can call for help in case of an emergency.


Slips and falls are among the most common water safety risks for seniors. Things like cluttered decks make it more likely that a senior with an unsteady gait will slip and fall on the slick deck surface. Keep the deck clean and organized, and install safety bars to help seniors who have difficulty getting in and out of the pool without assistance.


Swimming pools without proper safety precautions can pose danger to seniors with dementia. As this article points out, seniors with dementia sometimes wander and may wander into a fenced-in pool area without a proper safety lock. These seniors are at an increased risk of slipping, falling, and even drowning in a pool.


Swim Skills to Master

Seniors can benefit from a variety of pool exercises. For seniors with joint aches and pains or other conditions, exercising can be easier in the water. This article outlines several pool exercises ideal for seniors. This resource discusses the benefits of water exercise for seniors with various conditions, the benefits of swimming as an exercise option, and other useful information.


It’s never too late to take swimming lessons. For adults and seniors who have never learned to swim, many local community pools and YMCA facilities offer adult swimming lessons.


Learn proper swim strokes and develop endurance. Many adults can swim, but have never taken formal swimming lessons and have a more personal, make-do style of swimming. Taking lessons to learn the proper strokes can improve endurance and make it safer and easier for seniors to swim for longer periods of time.


Safety Equipment

A pool lift can be useful for seniors who have difficulty accessing a swimming pool. For seniors who cannot use a ladder or steps to enter a swimming pool, this article recommends a pool lift.


Use a medical alert system. This article recommends that seniors use a medical alert system to quickly seek help if needed. “A waterproof, emergency medical alert pendant follows you into the shower, the bath and the pool. If you fall, get dizzy, or feel weak, help is just a button-press away.”


Ramps and special access ladders can be helpful for seniors who have trouble with traditional ladders and steps. This resource offers information on a variety of safety equipment for seniors, including special access ladders and pool ramps.


Age-Specific Hydration and Nutrition Tips

Older adults over the age of 60 are among the most-likely age groups to suffer from dehydration. As this article explains, “Dehydrated seniors are at a higher risk for developing infectious disease, stroke, kidney stones, chronic constipation and impaired cognitive function.” The elderly should drink five or more eight-ounce glasses of water each day.


Reduced taste and smell make seniors less likely to eat a proper diet. Older adults commonly experience a reduction in senses such as taste and smell, making them less likely to maintain proper nutrition. Seniors should consume a healthy diet with a proper balance of protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and other nutrients.


Seniors should drink water regularly throughout the day, particularly when participating in outdoor or strenuous activities such as swimming. It’s easy for seniors to become dehydrated, so older adults should take care to consume enough water to stay hydrated. This guide from the Nestlé Nutrition Institute explains why staying hydrated is so important for the elderly.


Proper hydration is even more important for seniors in hot climates or when they’re more physically active. The body loses more water in these conditions, so seniors should consume even more water to replace that which the body loses.


Water Safety for Disabled

The following resources provide helpful information and valuable safety tips on water safety for the disabled.


Potential Risks

Drowning is the most common cause of unintentional injury death among people with seizure disorders. While the bathtub is the site of highest drowning risk, swimming pools and spas certainly pose a risk to individuals with seizure disorders as well.


Falls and injuries are possible for persons who use mobility equipment (such as walkers) as well as those with vision impairment. This article analyzes the risks of public swimming facilities for individuals with disabilities, noting that those with impaired vision may not see obstacles, leading to slips and falls, as well as the risks of cluttered areas for individuals who use mobility aids.


Entering and exiting a swimming pool can be challenging for individuals with disabilities. This resource from the American Disabilities Association outlines the accessibility requirements for swimming pools at hotels and other public accommodations.


Swim Skills to Master

Adaptive swim programs are available through some organizations offering swimming lessons. These programs are targeted specifically at children and adults with special needs, providing specialized instruction designed to help disabled persons acquire essential swimming skills.


Adapting stroke techniques is one strategy for disabled individuals. Some disabilities make it difficult for disabled persons to use standard swimming and stroke techniques. This resource outlines ways to adapt strokes for individuals with disabilities.


Basic safety skills form the foundation of safe swimming for people with disabilities as well as those without. The foundational safety principles are the same for all people, regardless of age or ability. This resource covers swimming inclusion for people with disabilities, including outlining the essential safety skills that should form the foundation of any swimming instruction program: entry, exit, buoyancy/balance, orientation/rotation, aquatic breathing, travel, coordination, and spatial awareness.


Safety Equipment

Swimming pool lifts are helpful for aiding individuals with disabilities who have difficulty entering and exiting a swimming pool. This article outlines several safety strategies for individuals with disabilities, including the use of a swimming pool lift, or a mechanical device used to transfer an individual in or out of a swimming pool.


Sloped entries with aquatic wheelchairs make swimming pools accessible for wheelchair-bound individuals. Another portion of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a sloped entry meeting ADA requirements, coupled with an aquatic wheelchair (as most personal wheelchairs are not suitable for use in the water) makes it possible for individuals who are wheelchair-bound to enjoy public swimming access safely.


Transfer walls equipped with grab bars make it safer for disabled individuals to enter and exit pools, as well as transfer safely to the use of their standard mobility equipment. Transfer walls provide another safe option for entry and exit. This resource describes the ADA specifications for transfer walls, in addition to other accessibility options for disabled individuals.


Safety fencing is a must. This article describes the importance of adequate safety fencing surrounding swimming pools, both those in backyards and publicly accessible swimming pools, as well as adequate latches to prevent unsupervised entry.


Water Safety for Pets/Wild Animals

The following resources provide helpful information related to water safety for pets and wild animals.


Potential Risks

Both domesticated pets and wild animals can drown in swimming pools. This article from the Humane Society of the United States covers the very real risk of drowning to all types of pets and wildlife, as well as strategies for preventing these unfortunate incidents.


Tragic drownings do not typically pose a risk to human swimmers. A common question after finding a deceased animal in a swimming pool is whether it poses a risk to human swimmers. According to this resource, most germs are killed by the chlorine or other disinfectant in a properly maintained pool. However, removing the animal and following some precautionary measures is advised.


Dogs can swim safely in the same swimming pool with people, with a few general guidelines. This article outlines the minimal risks associated with allowing a dog to swim in a pool shared by humans, as well as criteria that should be used to determine the few times it is not safe to allow a dog to swim in a pool that will also be used by people.


Swim Skills to Master

Swimming is not an innate ability in dogs and other animals. While many people believe that a dog’s ability to swim is instinctual, some dogs have little swimming abilities and tend to sink to the bottom of pools and other bodies of water quickly. This article describes which breeds are more likely to be able to swim readily and which breeds have more difficulties for various reasons (such as a short muzzle, which often causes the animal to fatigue more quickly).


Teaching your dog obedience is the first step to teaching a dog to swim. According to this article, the most important swimming lessons for dogs don’t happen in the water, but on land, and it begins with basic obedience training.


Start by introducing your dog to a kiddie pool to increase his comfort level with water. Much like children and even adults must first learn to feel safe in water, dogs must learn to feel safe and comfortable in the water in order to enjoy safe swimming, as well.


Teach your dog to swim the perimeter of a pool to locate the exit. Dogs, like people, will fatigue after swimming too long, and they don’t have arms to grab hold of the edge for a quick rest. Teaching your dog the strategy for locating the exit of a pool as quickly as possible will help your dog get out for rest when needed and also increase his safety level should he ever fall into a pool accidentally.


Safety Equipment

Safety covers save the lives of dogs, cats, and wild animals. This article describes safety equipment and devices for animals, including the essential safety cover which prevents animals from accidentally falling into a swimming pool.


A ramp provides a safe, quick exit opportunity for animals who find themselves in the water accidentally or those who are fatigued from swimming. Whether an animal is in a swimming pool intentionally or accidentally, safety equipment like the Skamper Ramp provides a safe and easy-access option for animals to quickly exit the water.


Water disturbance alarms can help save the lives of both domestic and wild animals. These alarms sound an alert when the water surface is disturbed, allowing someone to quickly check the pool and help an animal out who has accidentally fallen into the water.


Properly fitting pet flotation devices (PFDs) can help ensure dogs’ safety in the water. This article evaluates the effectiveness of PFDs for dogs, analyzing the value of these devices in light of the challenges presented by the wide variation in size and shape of the canine species. Tip: Try a PFD on your dog if possible before purchasing to ensure a proper fit and the most benefit.


A fence, even an invisible fence, can prevent dogs and other animals from falling into a swimming pool. This article outlines several water safety tips for dogs, including the use of an adequate fence to prevent dogs and other animals from accidentally falling into a pool.


Hydration and Nutrition Tips

Be mindful of humidity. Animals don’t sweat like people do to cool their bodies down; dogs, for instance, pant, which evaporates moisture from their lungs and cools their body. Make sure your pet has adequate shade and/or a location to cool down on hot and humid summer days.


Know the symptoms of dehydration. Your pet cannot tell you when he is thirsty or when he’s not feeling well. This article outlines the common signs to look for that can indicate a pet is dehydrated.


Make clean water readily available at all times. Dogs and other animals need to stay hydrated just like people do, so making a fresh, clean bowl of water available at all times gives your pet ready access to water whenever he needs it.


Dogs should drink about one ounce of water per pound of body weight daily. While it’s not always possible to know precisely how much water your pet drinks (particularly if you have more than one pet sharing a water bowl), this article provides useful information on ensuring proper hydration in dogs and other pets.


If you’re traveling or exercising with a dog or other pet outdoors, take water with you. Dogs and other pets require regular hydration during exertion as well as humans, so take fresh water with you and a portable water dish to ensure your pet remains cool and well-hydrated.