More than 800 children drown every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Parents often assume they'll hear their child splash or cry if she falls into the water, but drowning is usually quick and silent. "Once a child's head goes underwater, it only takes a few minutes for her heart to stop and brain damage to occur," says pediatrician Gary Smith, M.D., director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
Do keep your toddler or preschooler within arm's reach whenever he's in or near water. Never let an older child out of your sight.
Don't get distracted when your child is in or near a pool or has access to any water.
Do equip your pool with four-sided fencing at least four feet high, a rigid cover, and anti-entrapment drain covers. Empty kiddie pools and remove ladders to above-ground pools after using.
Don't leave pool toys in the water or near the pool area.
Do learn CPR and keep a cell phone handy in case of an emergency.
Don't rely on arm floats or air-filled tubes to keep your child safe. Have her wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life preserver if she's on a boat or near water.
Babies and toddlers: Swimming lessons can help a young child feel comfortable in the water, but they won't prevent her from drowning. "Children are generally not developmentally ready for formal lessons until after age 4," says Dr. Smith. If you want to sign up for a class, choose a program that lets you stay in the pool with your child.
Preschoolers and older kids: After age 4, your child should learn how to swim, but you'll still need to supervise him in or around water. Look for a program that has certified instructors, groups kids according to their abilities, and includes water safety in the curriculum. Enroll your child in lessons every year to keep up his skills.
This is an inflammation of the outer ear canal that becomes infected, and the symptoms are itchiness and pain—especially if you wiggle the ear. It occurs when water and germs get trapped in the ear, and may be treated with antibiotic ear drops. The AAP says keeping ears dry is key.
What to do: Call the doctor if there's drainage from your child's ear, his outer ear is painful or swollen, or it hurts when he touches the lobe or tab in front of his ear. The doctor will probably prescribe antibiotic ear drops and have you keep the ear canal dry for three to seven days.
Over the last decade, more and more kids have been getting infections from contaminated water in swimming pools, lakes, rivers, and oceans, according to the CDC. Known as recreational water illnesses, these infections are caused by germs that usually enter the water by fecal contamination. "The most common illnesses cause diarrhea and respiratory, eye, ear, and skin infections," says David Kimberlin, MD, a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. To keep your child safe, follow these rules.
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