Temperatures are heating up in the Las Vegas valley, which means more people are heading to the pool. And while swimming is a great form of physical activity for all ages and a good way to beat the heat, safety should always remain an important priority — especially for young children.
UNLV School of Public Health professor Jennifer Pharr has led multiple studies related to swimming safety, including an investigation of youth swimming skills and method of instruction.
“Our research found that nearly half of children between the ages of 4 and 18 have no to low swimming ability,” said Pharr. “It is unfortunate that drowning is the leading cause of injury death among children because it is preventable.”
To ensure pool safety and overall fun, Pharr offers a few tips for parents and children that follow the ABCD’s of drowning prevention:
- Adult supervision of children who do not know how to swim or have low swimming ability. In 2017, 859 children under 18 died due to drowning. It is critical that adults keep an eye on children whenever they are around water as they might not understand the dangers or overestimate their abilities.
- Barriers around pools. The Southern Nevada Pool Code has provisions requiring pools to have layers of protection, such as fences with self-latching gates around pools. Barriers are valuable tools to keep children safe as research has shown that pool fencing can reduce drowning deaths by fifty percent among young children. Many jurisdictions nationwide have similar codes and guidelines.
- Classes. Take swimming lessons from a certified instructor. Our research team found that formal lessons reduce the likelihood of childhood drowning by 88 percent, and children who learn to swim from a certified instructor are two times more likely to have good swimming ability. Furthermore, children who are encouraged to swim by their parents are more likely to not only have good swimming ability, but to enjoy swimming.
- Devices. Life jackets, arm floaties, and swim donuts are just a few examples of easy-to-transport tools that children with no- to low-swimming ability can use to enjoy pool time with their friends.
Drowning prevention strategies are especially crucial for children who are low-income, black, or female, as they are at highest risk for low swimming ability, according to research by Pharr’s team.
Southern Nevada Health District data shows that in recent years local 911 operators annually receive about 50 to 60 calls about child submersions — up from roughly 40 calls annually in previous years.
From the local YMCA to private coaches, there are many options to help both children and adults improve swimming ability. To find a certified swimming instructor near you, visit the USA Swimming Foundation’s Make a Splash website.