We were at Disney World in July, in other words during the hottest time of the year. Having spent the morning at the park we headed to the pool to cool off for the afternoon. Luckily for us – or so I thought – we had the pool to ourselves. I had jumped in with the Princesses, both of whom thought I had magically transformed into a jungle gym. The Husband was upstairs in the hotel room catching up on emails. Both girls were hanging on me in the middle of the pool. I stepped backwards and there was what seemed like a dramatic drop in the pools depth. I went under. I couldn’t touch. The weight of the girls was pushing me further down and I couldn’t get my head above water. The moment of panic commenced.
I was able to push Princess One off me, at that time she was a decent enough swimmer and I knew she would be ok, at least until I could get my footing. As for Princess Two, I tried to push her into the shallower area. One I could touch in but she still couldn’t. The moment passed. We were all fine. The girls were unphased but I wasn’t. All I could think about was the “what if”. I know we were very lucky, but so many others are not.
Accidental drowning’s are a leading cause of death for kids between ages 1 and 19, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Hotel pools are no exception. Accidents happen, and they don’t care if you’re at home in the backyard pool, a friend’s house or a hotel pool.
As you head out to hotel and resort destinations or the pool at your AirBnB, it’s time to review some important and lifesaving pool safety tips.
Knowledge is power
Teach your kids to swim. Even infants can learn swimming survival skills. If you haven’t already, sign your kids up for swimming lessons!!!
Know the five water survival skills
Everyone, no matter your age should master these five water survival skills.
- Float or tread water for one minute
- Turn around in a full circle and find an exit
- Swim 25 yards to exit the water
- Pull yourself up on the side of the pool to exit without using the ladder
Flip and float
Teach kids to flip over on their backs and float if they feel tired or in trouble in the water. Have them practice this several times and slowly kick over to shallower water and/or the side of the pool.
Teach your kids how and when to call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number. And, have a phone they can easily access outside by the pool. If you’re staying at a hotel, kids need to know the name of the hotel and the city in which they are in.
Walk around the outside of the pool before ever getting in to familiarize yourself – and your kids – about the depth of the areas within the pool. Knowing where you can and can’t touch can save your life. For fun – and safety – we make imaginary lines the kids can’t cross based on how tall they are and where they can physically touch.
Take note of surrounding equipment
At home you’re likely familiar with where equipment that can be used for throwing or reaching for someone in trouble is located. Take note when you’re visiting a hotel or vacation rental pool. Know where the safety floats are, water net and other items you may need to use in an emergency.
Basic CPR, even kids can do
Knowing basic CPR can make the difference between life and death. The Red Cross offers multiple first aid and CPR/AED classes to get certified. In the meantime, here is a short clip on how to perform CPR. (Even kids can get certified for CPR, make it a family activity!)
Rain, rain go away
One of the most basic swim safety tips is not to swim then there is thunder. Where there is thunder, there is lightening. And, lightening and pools do not mix.
Drains and suction
Always check to make sure the drain covers are in fact covered. When in the water, kids need to stay away from drains on the sides of the pool, as well as any suction areas. These suction areas can actually trap a child by holding them in place and keeping them from getting above water. This is particularly concerning in hot tubs where high suctions areas are common.
A national safety group found 90 percent of children who drowned did so while under the care of an adult or a teenager. That’s shocking to me, I suppose it shouldn’t though. There might be 10 adults outside while the kids are swimming but that doesn’t mean they’re actually paying attention to the kids. Adults need to appoint a “designated watcher” to monitor children, this can be broken out into increments of 20 minutes so all adults have a turn, and still get to be social.
Practice safe diving
Use the diving board and only jump from the front of the board, not the sides. Going off the sides can put you too close to the edges of the pool where you can get hurt. Additionally, if you jump off the sides of the pool, never do so headfirst and only jump if you are aware of how deep the water is.
Never swim alone
Always swim with a buddy; do not allow anyone to swim alone – even yourself.
Kids are not in charge
Never leave a young child unattended in the pool, even if there are other children who are strong swimmers with them. You cannot trust a child’s life to another child.
Use the pool slide correctly
I know it’s fun to go down the pool slide headfirst, but you can be severely injured this way. Slide goers need to only go down the slide with their feet first...and one person at a time. If there are multiple people using the slide kids need to learn to check in front of the landing spot in the water to make sure no one is there before they go. Landing on someone else not only hurts them but the other person as well.
Kids love to splash, but too much of it can cause little ones to get a mouth full of water, lose their footing or get stuck underneath a float. Create some rules around splashing. Such as…
- If someone says stop, then stop right then.
- Always check to make sure you can see the other persons face when you’re splashing.
- Limit the number of splashes to two before checking on the other person to ensure they’re above water and breathing. Use words to ask them if they’re good. They have to respond using words, if not something is wrong.
Know the signs of drowning
Flailing arms and screaming for help are not signs of drowning. Instead, it’s a quite child who doesn’t seem like they’re in distress. Someone who can’t call for help or wave their arms. Many times people remain upright in the water, without signs of kicking before sinking. Their head is covered by their hair or otherwise hard to see. Their head has fallen forward or their mouth is at water level but they can’t stay above long enough to breath or call for help. Another sign is trying to swim in a particular direction but not getting anywhere or appearing to climb an imaginary ladder. For more signs of drowning read this or this. The rule of thumb is, if you think someone is drowning ask them. If they can’t answer using words, they are in trouble.
Walk don’t run
You may get tired of sounding like a broken record telling your kids to stop running at the pool. But don’t stop. Slipping on wet concert can result in concussions, broken limbs or bloody knees. They will learn to stop running. Hopefully, not the hard way.
While they’re not something you can fully rely on, a life jacket should be used for young children or inexperienced swimmers. They need to be U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets, not water wings or other floaties.
Additional Resources for Swimming Safety Tips
- LiveStrong, Activities to Teach Water Safety to Preschoolers
- Red Cross, Water Safety
- Safe Kids, Swimming Safety Tips
- Drowning Prevention & Swim Safety Tips For Kids (Infographic)