Swimming Pool Safety

Q: We are putting a pool in our backyard.  What is the best way to keep our children safe with the pool in the yard?

A: Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death in children ages 1 through 4 years.  A swimming pool is 14 times more likely to cause death in a child under age 4 than a motor vehicle accident. Prevention of drowning is a significant health concern!

Seventy percent of preschoolers who drown are under the supervision of a parent and 75% of those children are out of sight for 5 minutes or less.  Therefore, an adult should be present at ALL times when a child is in a pool.  An infant or toddler should be within arm’s reach, and adults should have undistracted attention when supervising older children (no talking on phone, socializing, doing chores, drinking alcohol).  The supervising adult must know how to swim.  

Fencing that completely surrounds a pool or spa is one of the best ways to protect a child from entering the water. It should be climb resistant (chain link fencing is not recommended around a pool), at least 4-feet high and have a self-closing and self-latching gate.  The gate should open away from the pool and should be locked when the pool is not in use or adult supervision is not available.  Lock or remove ladders from above ground pools when not in use.  Many communities have regulations on fencing around pools, but even if your community does not, you should still protect your child and others from inadvertent water entry. 

Other safety measures can be of benefit, but are not a substitute for fencing. These include rigid pool covers, door alarms, window guards and pool alarms.  Swimming lessons for children 4 years and older is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics to help with water safety. 

If you have other safety questions concerning your child, please discuss them with your child’s health care provider.

By Dr. Sharon Rink, pediatrician, ThedaCare Physicians-Pediatrics in Darboy.