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Moms and babies at swim class

Early Swim Lessons May Lower Drowning Rates

By Dr. Sherin Amiri, Newport News Pediatrics

A baby’s first birthday is full of milestones. First words. First steps. First dentist appointment.

Here’s a new one to add to the list: First swim lessons.

While it may seem early, the nation’s leading group of pediatricians now recommends starting lessons around the age of 1.

Research has found that swim lessons at this age are beneficial and may lower drowning rates, according to a new policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death in U.S. children ages 1 to 4, according to the AAP. Nearly 1,000 children die from drowning every year.

Families should talk to their pediatrician about whether their child is developmentally ready for swim lessons. If possible, find a program that teaches “water competency” – the ability to get out of the water – which can help kids who end up in the water unexpectedly, the AAP recommends.

However, it’s also important to remember that young children who take swim lessons can still be at risk for drowning.

Parents of older children need to be vigilant as well. The age group at the second highest risk of drowning deaths is teens. Roughly 370 children between the ages of 10 and 19 drown every year. Overconfidence and swimming under the influence of alcohol compound their risk.

The AAP strongly recommends parents and caregivers take the following steps to help keep children safe from drowning:

  • All children should learn to swim. Teens can also learn CPR and other water safety skills.
  • Children and teens should wear life jackets while near open bodies of water.
  • Parents and caregivers should never leave children alone or in the care of another child while in or near bathtubs, pools, spas, or other water sources.
  • Adults should empty water from buckets and other containers immediately after use.
  • Do not leave young children alone in the bathroom. Toilet locks can prevent drowning of toddlers.
  • When infants or toddlers are in or around the water, a supervising adult with swimming skills should be within an arm’s length, providing constant “touch supervision.”
  • Even with older children and better swimmers, the supervising adult should focus on the child and not be engaged with other distracting activities.
  • For homes with a pool, the most important safety measure is a four-sided fence that completely surrounds the pool and isolates it from the house.

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About CHKD Medical  Group Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters has been the region’s most trusted name in pediatric care for more than 50 years. As members of CHKD Health System, our pediatricians work closely with CHKD’s full range of pediatric specialists and surgeons. They also share a commitment to quality, excellence and child-centered care. With 18 practices in 29 locations throughout the region, a CHKD pediatrician is never far.