Teach kids to swim, pediatricians urge
The American Academy of Pediatrics has changed its policy on swim lessons for small children, and says new evidence shows kids ages 1-4 may be less likely to drown if they have had formal swimming lessons.
The organization is reinforcing its current recommendation that most kids age 4 and older should learn how to swim, but says it is now more open to swim instruction for younger children over age 1.
Under the old policy, pediatricians discouraged swim lessons for kids 1-3 because there was little evidence that it prevented drowning and there was concern that parents wouldn’t be as watchful with a child who had some swimming skills.
The AAP now says parents should decide whether kids ages 1-3 should be enrolled in swim lessons based on their emotional development, health conditions and how often they’re exposed to water. The new policy also warns of the danger of body entrapment and hair entanglement in a pool or spa drain.
Pediatricians don’t advise formal water safety programs for kids younger than 1 year old.
Drowning rates fell between 1985 and 2006, but drowning remains the second-leading cause of death for children and teens ages 1-19, according to the AAP. Toddlers and teen-age boys are at the greatest risk.
“To protect their children, parents need to think about layers of protection,” said Dr. Jeffrey Weiss, lead author of the new policy statement released online this week and to be published in the July print issue of Pediatrics..
To keep kids safe in and around water, the AAP advises:
— Never leave small children alone in or around water, not even for a moment. Adults should always be an arm’s length away.
— To prevent drowning in toilets, young children shouldn’t be left alone in the bathroom.
— Make sure there is a four-sided fence (hard to climb and not chain link) around home swimming pools. It should be at least 4 feet high, with a self-latching and self-closing gate.
— Teach children 4 and older how to swim. Swimming lessons may also help protect younger children 1-3, but not all children will be ready to swim at the same age.
— Parents, caregivers and pool owners should learn CPR.
— Don’t substitute air-filled swim toys for life jackets, and make sure any child in a boat is wearing a life jacket. Small children and non-swimmers should also wear a life jacket while they’re near the water’s edge.
— Parents should know the depth of the water and any underwater hazards before allowing children to jump in. Don’t dive in the first time, but enter feet first.
— Swim near lifeguards.
— Make sure teens know the increased risk of drowning when alcohol is involved.