By Heather Cooper, Seattle Children’s Hospital (Estimated reading time: 3 mins)
This year, there may be fewer lifeguarded beaches while families are more eager than usual for getting outdoors. If play around water is part of your family’s fun as you social distance, it is critical to know that adult supervision and life jackets are layers of protection that can save lives.
Supervise fun in and around water
Adult supervision is a layer of protection that is a serious job. Many people think that if a child is having trouble in the water, they will hear lots of splashing and noise and will be able to get to the child. In most cases, however, children slip under quickly and in silence.
When you can, swim only in areas where there are lifeguards. Actively watch your children when they are in or near water — this means being within touching distance of young children at all times.
Since most drownings occur quickly and quietly, focused supervision is needed for older kids, too. Save the book or web browsing for when the kids are out of the water.
Assign a “water watcher” when kids are swimming and several adults are present. The adult water watcher is in charge of actively supervising the kids with no distractions and no alcohol or drug use.
Remind teens to swim where there are lifeguards and use the buddy system. Make clear they should never use alcohol or drugs while in or on the water.
Wear life jackets
Life jackets [PDF] are another layer of protection, and adults are the best role models for wearing life jackets. Encourage parents, grandmas, grandpas, and other adults in your child or teen’s life to wear them.
Even if you or your child know how to swim, always wear a life jacket when:
- On a boat, raft, paddleboard, or inner tube.
- Swimming in open water like a lake, river, or the ocean. Non-swimmers should wear a life jacket while swimming in pools as well.
- Playing in or near the water and on docks (for younger children).
- Taking part in other water activities, like jet-skiing and windsurfing.
When choosing a life jacket:
- Look at the label for U.S. Coast Guard approval.
- Check the label for the size, based on weight.
- Note the types of activities and water conditions the jacket is rated for.
- Make sure the jacket has head support and a strap between the legs if it’s for a young child.
Check for proper fit:
- The life jacket should have a snug fit when fastened.
- Lift your child by the shoulders of the jacket. Their chin and ears should not slip through if it fits well.
Enjoy the fresh air and time outside of your home safely this summer! Visit the Seattle Children’s Drowning Prevention and Water Safety page for more water safety tips and get a 25% coupon off a life jacket.