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Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt safety expert offers summer water safety tips

May. 25, 2018, 9:28 AM

A young boy swimming in a life vest and goggles stops to smile.

Summer means backyard barbecues and spending time with family and friends at the pool, beach or on a boat. Unfortunately, it can also mean an uptick in drowning and near-drowning incidents.

Drowning is among the leading causes of death in Tennessee for children ages 1 to 18. In 2015, 12 children drowned in Tennessee. Most of these deaths occurred while children were playing and unintentionally fell into the water, most commonly poolside.

“Parents assume that if their child falls in the water, they will hear a lot of splashing and screaming and will be able to rescue them. The sad truth is that many times the child slips under water silently and even people near or in the pool with them have reported hearing nothing during drowning incidents,” said Purnima Unni, Pediatric Trauma Injury Prevention program manager.

Unni reminds caregivers to always remember to use the ABCs of Water Safety:

A – Adult supervision

  • Active adult supervision is key — at least one adult should be focused on the pool and close enough to touch the swimmers if necessary.
  • Designate an adult “water watcher.” This person’s sole responsibility is to watch the pool area for 15 minutes and not read or talk on the phone. After 15 minutes, pass the responsibility to another adult for 15 minutes, and so forth. Ensure that the “water watcher” is a sober adult who knows CPR and has basic swimming skills.
  • Floaties (inflatable armbands) or other inflatable flotation devices are not life jackets and should never be substituted for adult supervision.

B – Barriers and boating safety

  • Have a properly working physical barrier such as an isolation fence, pool safety cover and pool alarm that meets code requirements.
  • If the home opens directly to the pool, door alarms and locks should be installed.
  • Always swim at a lifeguarded beach, and pay attention to the beach warning flags. Wear properly fitted U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets while on a boat.

C – Classes

  • Teach children to swim. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends swimming lessons for children as young as 1.
  • Adults and children 13 and older should learn infant and child CPR.

To see more safety tips visit


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