Water Fun in the Sun

A few years ago, we got caught up in the same back yard instant pool bug that everyone else seemed to have. It seemed like such a simple and easy solution…unroll, put in water and Voila! Instant backyard pool with hours of endless lounging and backyard fun. Well, that was the fantasy. The reality? The pool never held its water. The pool top kept flying. And, the ladder barely fit over the pool’s sides. “Lasted long it did not”, Yoda would say of our pool.

True backyard pools and whirlpool spas now have competition with these smaller, “temporary” pools as well as a variety of other backyard water toys: super soakers, sprinklers, and slip n’ slides. For many people, handing at home is more leisurely than packing everyone up and heading to the local town pool or beach.  In addition to lack of quality, as we discovered, these items are not inexpensive. And, carry some of the biggest risk to injury of all the summer activities. Injuries from these recreational toys and pools include the risk of drowning, which is always a concern with water activities, as well as minor cuts and bruises, broken bones and concussions.

According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports, approximately 250 deaths occur each year in children under 5 in swimming pools and more then 2000 children are treated each year in emergency rooms for near-drowning accidents including entrapment injuries from suction drains in residential pools and spas.

But pools are not the only source of injuries in backyards. One of the most dangerous backyard water toys to adults and teenagers are the backyard waterslides such as WHAM-O’s slip ‘n slide. These slides are intended for children and the weight and height of teenagers and adults has produced serious injury to the neck and spinal cord. This highlights not only the danger of some of these seemingly innocent toys but the need to read the cautions on the boxes carefully and be sure all children follow the safety instructions.

Here are some safety suggestions to help keep your family safe while enjoying some much needed water fun this summer:

1. Direct adult supervision (someone 18 or older) is needed for everything involving water. We are our children’s first line of defense! Never assume because a child can swim that is a substitute for safety near water.
2. Swim lessons are one of the best ways to not only teach children basic water safety but help them avoid dangerous situations. The American Red Cross and American Academy of Pediatrics recommend formal classes for children 4 and older but classes for younger children with parents are available and recommended if the the child seems ready.
3. Even good swimmers can drown – never allow children to swim alone, even in small, “wadding” pools. A buddy system is a great line of defense for older children and teenagers.
4. If a child is missing, check the pool or spa first.
5. Safety equipment and a phone should be in arms reach for pools of any size and whirlpool spas.
6. Consider a pool alarm that sounds in the house to alert you if your pool or whirlpool is entered when no adult is outside.
7. All pools need a barrier – a fence for large pools and a tarp for small pools. For all above ground pools, remove the ladder when not in use to make access to the pool more difficult.
8. Make sure electric filters and pumps are turned off when children are swimming and near the pool or whirlpool to avoid electrocution.
9. CPR training truly saves lives. If you have a home pool of any kinds, makes sure someone in your house is CPR certified for adults and kids. Your local Red Cross can help you find a local training site.
10. Require everyone to wear a US Coast Guard Approved flotation devices for all boating activities, even accomplished swimmers. And, remember that wearing a floatation device doesn’t prevent drowning even in a backyard.
11. Sprinkles are great fun and a wonderful way to stay cool but do produce a very slick ground putting children at risk for slipping and injuring themselves. Make sure the ground around the sprinkler is as free as possible for obvious rocks and twigs and have all participants wear footwear.
12. Avoid backyard water slides. There is no safe way to slide into a wet ground or shallow pool. They always seem fun until someone breaks a leg.

More information on pool safety can be found on poolsafety.gov.

Here’s to many days of safe water fun for you and your family!