It’s hard to take your kids to a pool without those worst-case scenarios running through your mind. At the top of that list is probably drowning, and there’s a good reason for that. Between 2005 and 2014, an average of over 3,500 unintentional drownings occurred each year.
But even if you teach your kids to be strong and confident swimmers, they’re not completely out of the woods. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but water dangers don’t stop at drowning. In fact, tons of risks await your kids every time they visit a pool or beach. These are some of the biggies.
1. Slippery surfaces
You know all those “no running” signs you see all around the pool? They’re not there just to ruin your good time. Splashing water leads to slippery surfaces at the pool’s edge, and if your kids aren’t careful, they can easily slip and fall. Not only can that lead to an unintentional dip into the water, but it can also lead to other injuries, like broken bones and busted heads.
2. Shallow water
Learning how to dive is a giant milestone for any pool-going kid, and they can sometimes be too eager to show off those new skills. Check the depth of the water before allowing your kids to dive. Going headfirst into too-shallow water can lead to impact with the bottom of the pool, which can cause neck, spinal cord or brain injury. Anything less than 5 feet is not deep enough for diving.
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When you’re surrounded by water, dehydration is probably the furthest thing from your mind, but it’s a very real risk. High levels of activity combined with warm weather and warm water mean you (and your kids) need to up your intake of water to prevent dehydration. Get your kids to drink lots of water before they head into the pool, and try to round them up for another cup every 15 minutes or so.
When you head to a public pool, you assume it’s loaded with enough chlorine to kill any germs or other nastiness that might be in the water. That’s what makes the green hair and red eyes worth it, right? The good news is that chlorine does work on most illness-causing germs, but the bad news is that some bacteria can live for hours or even days before the chlorine takes its toll. Because of that, swimming in any pool, hot tub, water park or natural body of water puts us at risk for a recreational water illness, and we can be exposed by skin contact or by inhaling or swallowing water. Most RWIs result in diarrhea, but they can also result in skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurological and wound infections.
Jumping into freezing cold water is just part of the pool game, but it can actually be pretty dangerous if the water is too cold. Your body temperature drops a lot faster when you’re in the water, and water temps below 70 degrees F can lead to hypothermia. Shock from freezing cold water can happen to anyone. Watch for symptoms like gasping, shivering and muscle cramps or spasms, and get your kids out of the water pronto if you see them.
6. Hidden dangers
If you’re swimming in murky water like lakes, rivers, ponds or creeks, it can be hard (if not impossible) to see the bottom of the water. This makes it easy to miss hidden dangers, like trash, jagged rocks or dangerous fish and animals. Have your kids wear water shoes when swimming in unclear water, and try to keep them close by in case of an emergency.
7. Dry drowning
Once your child has left the pool, you probably think the dangers of the water are over, but that’s not always the case. Both dry drowning and secondary drowning are very real dangers, and they can happen within minutes or hours after your child has left the water. With dry drowning, water that never reached their lungs can cause their airways to spasm and shut, cutting off breathing. With secondary drowning, even small amounts of inhaled water can build up in the lungs, leading to pulmonary edema. Both conditions are rare but can happen anytime your child plays in the water. Keep a watchful eye when your child is in the pool, and get them to the ER if they show any symptoms, such as chest pain, coughing, trouble breathing or extreme fatigue.
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