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Weekend Doctor: Public pool safety reminders

NOTE: The Ada Municipal Pool will be open through August 13, which is also the date of the Farmers & Merchants Picnic.

By Sarah A. Denny, MD
Emergency Medicine, Nationwide Children’s Hospital

Everyone loves to take a dip in the pool, especially during the dog days of summer While swimming is a great way to play, exercise and cool off, there are certain things to keep in mind. More than 1,000 children die each year from drowning, and many others suffer life-changing injuries. Help protect your family by using the following safety tips when swimming in public pools.

Lifeguards are stationed at pools to monitor swimming, keep patrons safe and to create a hazard-free environment. They are expert swimmers who know CPR, how to use an AED and may even teach swim lessons. Lifeguards, however observant they may be, are not there to babysit. While you and your family are swimming in a public pool, make sure to stay by your child’s side and keep a close eye on them by giving them your undivided attention. You should not be reading, talking on the phone or chatting with others. Adults should be in the pool, within an arm’s length of infants, toddlers and beginning swimmers to reach them quickly. If your child is both old enough and capable enough to swim on their own, have them use the “buddy system” with a friend to keep an extra eye on each other. Additionally, designate specific check-in times to gather with your family.

Make a pool day both fun and safe by taking the time to go over pool rules with your family. Take note of signage that says, “no diving” or “no running.” Pay attention to conditions that might be hazardous like a wet tile floor or a broken drain cover in the pool. If you see anything that could be dangerous to pool users, notify a lifeguard or pool facility manager right away.

Use caution when using diving boards, water slides or other pool equipment. Make sure swimming activities correspond with your child’s swimming abilities; sometimes, swim tests are needed for children to swim in the deep end. Also, remind your family of what to do when a lifeguard blows their whistle: stop, look and listen.

Time flies when you’re having fun, but extended periods of time outside can lead to sunburn, dehydration and heat exhaustion. Plan ahead by bringing lots of water to drink and sunscreen for your body. Once you are at the pool, find a shaded spot to use when taking breaks. Make sure to check-in with your family often to see how everyone is feeling.

Use sunscreen that is water-resistant, labeled as broad spectrum (which protects against UVA and UVB sun rays) and has an SPF of 30 or higher. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before heading outside and reapply it every two hours and after water exposure, such as swimming or sweating.

Protective clothing can be helpful when children are outside for a long time. It can be hard to take a break from play to reapply sunscreen – especially when kids and clothes are wet, sweaty or sandy. Look for swimwear and clothing with a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) rating. Hats can protect the top of the head, ears and back of the neck (if the hat has a brim). Protective clothing and hats are essential for babies younger than six months, since sunscreen is not recommended for this age group. Be sure to apply sunscreen to the uncovered parts of the skin, such as the face, neck, hands and feet.

Also, be sure to hydrate by drinking water and eating water-dense foods like melon, strawberries, oranges, cucumbers, lettuce and plain yogurt.

Through a collaboration between Blanchard Valley Health System and Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the content of this article was provided courtesy of Nationwide’s 700 Children’s® blog by pediatric experts.