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Keep young swimmers under tight supervision

June 20, 2006

Now that school is out and temperatures are beginning to rise, it's a sure bet that children will seek refuge from the heat in a swimming pool, if one is handy. A bit of planning by parents now should greatly reduce the chances of tragedy later.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 300 children under age 5 drown each year in a swimming pool - and usually one that's owned by their own family.

In most cases, according to the CPSC, the children were being supervised by one or more parent, but managed to elude mom and dad for just a few minutes.

That's all the time it takes. CPSC officials say that 75 percent of the children who died had been out of parents' view for five minutes or less.

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The best way to keep a youngster from drowning in a pool is to keep the child in sight when he or she is in the pool area and to provide a fence or a cover to prevent accidents when no adult is on the scene.

CPSC officials also suggest that parents of care-givers learn CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) so that in the event of an accident, the child's breathing can be started and brain damage avoided.

In Florida, which The Orlando Sentinel last week reported continues to lead the nation in accidental drownings for children under 5, state officials have launched a program called "Keep Your Eyes on the Kids."

According to a description of the program in the June 16 edition of The Orlando Sentinel, when a group of adults are near a pool where children are playing, one adult should be designated to watch the children.

If there is only one adult on the scene and there is a distraction - a phone call or someone at the door - children should be told to leave the pool area until the adult can again focus his or her attention on what children are doing.

Swimming is good exercise and a great way for children to burn off some of that youthful energy. But a swimming pool is not a playpen and parents who let themselves become distracted while children are splashing around may face a lifetime of regret as a result.

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