For many people, the hot summer days are often spent swimming at the pool.
But before you help your child suit up, it’s important to consider practical tips to keep your child safe.
Below are some common questions about children and water safety.
Many kids learn to ride a bike and to swim on their own at the same age – often the summer before kindergarten.
The American Academy of Pediatrics supports swimming lessons for most children four years and older.
If you enrol a child younger than age four in a swimming programme, pick one that requires parental involvement, has qualified teachers and a fun atmosphere, and involves a limited number of underwater submersions.
This will limit the amount of water your child might swallow.
It’s fine for children who have colds or other minor illnesses to swim, so long as they feel well enough to do so.
If your child has diarrhoea, is vomiting, has a fever, or is diagnosed with Covid-19 or another infectious illness, then he or she should stay out of the water.
Swim diapers and swim pants are water-repellent and fit snugly around a child’s thighs and waist, but they’re not waterproof.
If your child has a bowel movement in the water, faecal material might escape the diaper.
A dirty diaper might contain diarrhoea-causing germs, including the parasite Cryptosporidium, which can contaminate pool water or other swimming areas.
In otherwise healthy people, a cryptosporidium infection causes diarrhoea.
The consequences can be more severe for people who have weak immune systems.
Urine in the water is less risky than faeces, but it’s difficult to separate the two when children wear diapers.
If you allow your child to swim in a diaper, take breaks to change the diaper in the bathroom or use the toilet.
Don’t allow swimming if your child has diarrhoea.
Your child is bound to gulp pool water at one time or another, especially when first learning to swim.
A little swallowed pool water isn’t typically a cause for concern, but too much pool water can lead to illness.
Encourage your child to spit out any water that gets in his or her mouth.
It depends on the type of cast.
If your child has a plaster cast over cloth wrapping, he or she must stay out of the water.
Wrapping a plaster cast with plastic bags generally isn’t effective.
However, if your child has a fibreglass cast that’s lined with a water-repellent liner, it’s usually alright to swim, as long as you have the healthcare provider’s okay.
After swimming, it’s important to thoroughly rinse the inside of the cast with clean water.
If your child has ear tubes, it’s best to ask his or her healthcare provider about ear protection while swimming.
Some healthcare providers recommend that children who have ear tubes wear earplugs while swimming to prevent bacteria from entering the middle ear.
However, routine use of earplugs might only be needed when children dive or swim in untreated water, such as lakes and rivers.
Swimmer’s ear, also known as otitis externa, is an infection of the outer ear canal that occurs if water remains in the ear after swimming.
To prevent swimmer’s ear:
- Keep ears dry
Encourage your child to wear earplugs while swimming.
After swimming, dry your child’s ears by wiping the outer ears gently with a soft towel or use a hair dryer on the lowest setting, holding it at least a foot (30cm) away from the ear.
- Use a preventive treatment
As long as your child doesn’t have punctured eardrums, using over-the-counter preventive solutions or making homemade eardrops before and after swimming can reduce risk for swimmer’s ear.
- Avoid putting foreign objects in your child’s ear
Cotton swabs can pack material deeper into the ear canal, irritate the thin skin inside the ear or break the skin.
Exposure to chlorine might leave your child with red eyes.
To prevent red or puffy eyes, encourage your child to wear goggles while swimming, and avoid opening his or her eyes underwater.
To ease discomfort and reduce redness after swimming, rinse your child’s eyes with a sterile eyewash or an artificial tears solution.
While it may not be the most comfortable thing to go for a swim with a full belly, it is not dangerous.
With young children, the biggest concern with swimming and safety is staying alert.
Make sure you are always nearby and be prepared to act in case of an emergency. – By Cynthia Weiss/Mayo Clinic News Network/Tribune News Service